Choose Wisely, 14 July 2019

Choose Wisely
Series—All The King’s Choices
2 Chronicles 17:3-13; 18:1; 21:1-6; 22:1-12

Big Idea:
Our daily choices create the future for us…and sometimes others, too.

Choices. We love choices…until we don’t!

One of my undergrad degrees was in marketing, and since college I’ve been fascinated by brands, products, and the ways in which companies sell their goods and services. A quick walk through any Meijer, Super WalMart, or Kroger Marketplace store would be enough to convince you that we love choices. Do we need dozens of different toothpastes, types of milk, brands of orange juice, or varieties of pop?

Aldi thinks not! If you’ve ever been there, you have almost no choices to make. If you want peanut butter or granola bars or ice cream you don’t have to spend hours deciding which one to purchase. You usually have one option!

Life, of course, is far more complicated than a trip to the grocery store. We make decisions from the moment we wake up in the morning until we begin to drift off to sleep. We make choices about what we wear, eat, and drink. We have to decide how we spend our time and money. Our cell phones are loaded with apps inviting us to spend time reading, writing, and playing.

No wonder we’re so busy and stressed!

One of the most important things I told my children was, “You are your friends.
Choose wisely.” Today we’re talking choices in our series “All The King’s Choices” and my simple message to you is make wise choices, because

Our daily choices create the future for us…and sometimes others, too.

The Bible is packed with historic stories of people who made good and bad choices. It’s easy for us to see the good from the bad because we have the benefit of looking back at their lives and the consequences of their actions. If only we could get a sneak preview of the outcomes of our choices!

Our daily choices create the future for us…and sometimes others, too.

Today we’re going to look at a few passages from the book of 2 Chronicles, found in the Old Testament or what we might call the Jewish Bible. It tells the story of several kings, beginning with Solomon.

If you’ve ever read the books of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll almost certainly see a pattern emerge. The pattern goes something like this:

God blesses the kings who follow God.
God does not bless the kings who ignore God.

Unfortunately, most of the kings of Israel ignored God…and they paid dearly for their disobedience. You would think with the history of these kings recorded, new kings would want to learn from the predecessors.


They often responded the same way we tend to deal with tragedy.

“It will never happen to me.”
“I’m different.”
“I’m special.”
“You don’t understand.”

The older I get, the more I see this story repeat itself. We’re tempted to see ourselves as the exception to the rule.

“If you don’t get to bed soon, you’ll be sorry in the morning.”
“Be careful who you date because they might become your spouse someday.”

Here’s one I still struggle with:

“Make sure you leave a few minutes early in case there’s traffic.”

We all learn from mistakes: ours or the mistakes of others. In the book of 2 Chronicles, we see Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, the southern kingdom which was vulnerable to attacks by the northern kingdom of Israel.

In chapter 17, it says,

The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. (2 Chronicles 17:3-4)

Was Jehoshaphat a good king or a bad king? A good one. He followed the ways of David who was a man after God’s own heart. He sought God rather than idols. He followed God rather than the people. What’s the result?

The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:5-6)

An Asherah pole was a sacred pole or tree that was used to worship the pagan goddess Asherah. The Israelites were drawn away from their worship of the one true God to the worship of the false gods of other nations after they entered the land of Canaan.

In other words, Jehoshaphat cleans house and reinstitutes the worship of YHVH, the LORD God almighty.

In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah. With them were certain Levites—Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tob-Adonijah—and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. (2 Chronicles 17:7-9)

Teaching was extremely important, especially before technologies like the printing press, to say nothing of the Internet!

What is the result of the king’s obedience to God?

The fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks: seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred goats. (2 Chronicles 17:10-11)

That’s a lot of animals!

Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful; he built forts and store cities in Judah and had large supplies in the towns of Judah. He also kept experienced fighting men in Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 17:12-13)

God blesses those who follow Him.

This makes sense, right? We see it in history, but we also see it practically. When children obey their parents, they are often rewarded in some way…allowance, more trust and freedom, acts of appreciation. Disobedient children, on the other hand, are punished.

Paul wrote,

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

This does
not mean followers of Jesus will always be happy and that God-haters will always be miserable. But our choices have consequences, sometimes immediate, sometimes into the future, and sometimes eternal.

Jehoshaphat was a good king who followed God. He commanded the judges to be just (what a concept! 19:6-9). He trusted God for victory in chapter twenty. But like all but one person in the Bible, he wasn’t perfect. He’s a prime example that

Godly people can make unwise choices.

King David is another example.
Solomon is another example.

In many ways, we see Jehoshaphat indeed following his forefathers. The next chapter begins…

Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage. (2 Chronicles 18:1)

This was what my dad used to call a “no no.” Ahab was not a godly king. His wife, Jezebel, threatened to kill Elijah the prophet who we discussed last week. The people of God—then and now—are to never make alliances with the ungodly. We are to love them. We are to introduce them to Jesus. But we must be careful about lasting partnerships with those who have a different worldview. Paul also wrote,

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

This verse is often used to discourage Christians from marrying non-Christians, which seems to fit, though the context shows its application much broader.

Do you remember what I told my kids? “You are your friends.
Choose wisely.” This is true in marriage. This is true in business. This is true in family.

What was the result of Jehoshaphat’s one poor choice to align with ungodly Ahab? Let’s jump ahead to chapter twenty-one, after his death (sometimes it takes time to see the true effect of our actions).

Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king. Jehoram’s brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. Their father had given them many gifts of silver and gold and articles of value, as well as fortified cities in Judah, but he had given the kingdom to Jehoram because he was his firstborn son. (2 Chronicles 21:1-3)

Naturally, Jehoram is a good king like his dad, right?

When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. (2 Chronicles 21:4-6)

Did you catch that? Who led Jehoram away from God? The house of Ahab, including Ahab’s daughter that he married. Do you see a pattern?

This expression “evil in the eyes of the LORD” appears 50 times in the NIV translation of the Jewish Bible, many describing various kings, including Solomon, Judah, Nadab, Ahab, and the Israelites.

Perhaps you think God grades on a curve. If you’re pretty good, above average, everything will be ok. The reality is all of our choices have consequences, good or bad, immediate or future. Your past successes and failures are impacting you today, and today’s decisions will be more fully realized tomorrow, in your life and/or the lives of others, including your children and grandchildren.

Last month I met a man in Toledo who was telling me about his son. He said something that shocked me. He said, “I don’t want my son to turn out like me.” The man had made many poor choices in life…though none of them are beyond the power of God to forgive! I appreciated his self-awareness and love for his son. He was able to recognize how his choices affect not only himself but also his offspring.

We’re going to look at one more story which shows us how…

We can make the right choices, even in difficult times.

The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, Jehoram’s youngest son, king in his place, since the raiders, who came with the Arabs into the camp, had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. (2 Chronicles 22:1)

Jehoshaphat’s grandson is on the throne. All of his older brothers had been killed, so he became king.

Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. (2 Chronicles 22:2)

He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father’s death they became his advisers, to his undoing. He also followed their counsel when he went with Joram son of Ahab king of Israel to wage war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram; so he returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds they had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram. (2 Chronicles 22:3-6a)

Then Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to Jezreel to see Joram son of Ahab because he had been wounded. (2 Chronicles 22:6b)

Ahaziah leads the people into idolatry and war.

Through Ahaziah’s visit to Joram, God brought about Ahaziah’s downfall. When Ahaziah arrived, he went out with Joram to meet Jehu son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab. (2 Chronicles 22:7)

We finally have a “good guy,” Jehu, who follows God’s instructions to put an end to the madness.

While Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he found the officials of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s relatives, who had been attending Ahaziah, and he killed them. (2 Chronicles 22:8)

This is extreme, right? Thankfully God doesn’t give such instructions today, but remember, God hates sin, so much that he destroyed nearly everyone on the planet in the flood. I’m so thankful we live on this side of the cross, of Jesus.

He then went in search of Ahaziah, and his men captured him while he was hiding in Samaria. He was brought to Jehu and put to death. They buried him, for they said, “He was a son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” So there was no one in the house of Ahaziah powerful enough to retain the kingdom. (2 Chronicles 22:9)

Next in line was Ahaziah’s son Joash, but he was but an infant.

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah. (2 Chronicles 22:10)

What a nice lady! She regins as queen for six years…and her life is summarized in only three verses! The author of Chronicles all but wipes her out of the history books!

But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada, was Ahaziah’s sister, she hid the child from Athaliah so she could not kill him. He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land. (2 Chronicles 22:11-12)

Jehoshabeath risked her life to save a life, hiding the infant Joash who would later become king (2 Chronicles 24:1) and maintain the lineage of King David out of whom would eventually come Jesus, the Messiah.

We can make the right choices, even in difficult times.

So What?

I know none of you have the wealth or power of a king, but we all have influence.

Our daily choices create the future for us…and sometimes others, too.

I often wish our choices were as simple as right or left! Every day we’re faced with so many options for how we spend our time, our money, our energy, our thoughts, our technology, our relationships, …

Someone said it takes years to earn trust and seconds to lose it, and that’s so true. Even people who passionately serve God and love others can make one tragic mistake that can impact the rest of their lives…and the lives of others. This is why we all need this reminder…to choose carefully until our last days on earth. Last week we saw the faithfulness of Elijah and Elisha who both made it to the finish line, not perfect, but with their character intact. I desperately want that for you and for me, but it requires daily discipline, alertness to temptation, accountability, and positive influences.

Jesus’ half brother eloquently described the tragedy of sin:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

Sin leads to death.
Desire leads to sin.
Temptation leads to desire.

None of us is exempt. We are all capable of heinous sins. We are in a battle. We need our spiritual armor one (which we talked about two weeks ago). We need godly friends who can guide us into truth and righteousness when the world screams lies of selfish pursuits and pleasures.

Our daily choices create the future for us…and sometimes others, too.

What kind of tomorrow do you want to experience? It begins today.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Voice, John 10:1-21, 24 February 2013

Big Idea: We can choose to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd or the voice of the their that wants to steal, kill and destroy.

Sound is an amazing thing. Whether you realize it or not, there are sounds around us constantly. True silence is rare. What do you hear right now?

There are a few sounds that stand out from the rest. An alarm usually gets our attention, unless you’re a tired teenager in bed! Living across the street from the Cleveland Clinic, the sound of an ambulance was a frequent interruption to the mundane traffic tones. The human ear is able to process a wide variety of frequencies and noises. Now think about human voices. We have the ability to recognize people that we cannot even see, just by their voice.

There’s something powerful about one’s connection to a familiar voice. Yesterday I was in Meijer and a friend was telling me about his grandson. They live several states away and video chat frequently, and when the little boy hears the voice of his grandpa, he gets so excited!

Perhaps nothing seizes our attention more, though, than the most captivating word to our ears—our name. What is your name?

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus’ close friend and biographer tells us a lot about sound, voice, and your name.


Are you a shepherd? Have you ever met a shepherd? Sheep and shepherds are not common images in our culture today. They were very popular in the Middle East 2000 years ago, and remain so today. It’s not wonder that the Bible is filled with references to shepherds (e.g. Isaiah 40:10-11; Psalm 23). Moses and David were shepherds. There are several references in the scriptures to “false shepherds” (1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-2).


Last week in chapter nine, Jesus healed a blind man and the religious leaders went crazy because it was on the Sabbath. Biblical writers did not include chapter and verse references. Those were added centuries later, so from what we can see, Jesus is continuing His interaction with these self-righteous critics of His. The tenth chapter of John begins with red-letter text, words spoken by Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. (1-6)

Can you imagine the scene?

First, the setting is the
desert, a desperate place. Today Arab and Jewish children tell stories about the desert much like some cultures talk about deep, dark forests. In the desert food is rare, water is scarce, and deadly creatures roam. In addition, the terrain is often filed with steep cliffs, some with drops of over 1000 feet!

Sheep are prone to wander. The shepherd’s job is to keep the sheep together and safe. A sheep could be harmed by thieves, wild animals, and injury from wandering.

Just like my friend’s grandson recognizes my friend’s voice, and just like dogs typically know their owner’s voice, so sheep know the voice of their shepherd.

The Middle Eastern shepherd even today talks to and sings to his sheep. They often carry a short flute and the sheep learn both the voice of the shepherd and the sound of his flute.

“During the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s the Israeli army decided to punish a village near Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (which, the village claimed, simply financed their occupation). The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a large barbed-wire pen. Later in the week he was approached by a woman who begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood. He pointed to the pen containing hundreds of animals and humorously quipped that it was impossible because he could not find her animals. She asked that if she could in fact separate them herself, would he be willing to let her take them? He agreed. A soldier opened the gate and the woman’s son produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again—and soon sheep heads began popping up across the pen. The young boy continued his music and walked home, followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep.”

  • NIV Application Commentary

In the desert, sheep need to follow the shepherd if they are to survive.

Jesus doesn’t lead any sheep, but “his own” (3b). Notice that
the shepherd knows His name. He knows your name! How cool is that?! The Creator of the universe knows your name.

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (7-10)

That last verse is one of my favorites. Do you see the contrast between Jesus and satan, the thief and the Shepherd?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (11-13)

How far will the good shepherd go in caring for his sheep? All the way! To death!

Who influences you? So many respond to the teachings of people who are dead, celebrities with chaotic lives, or even friends that can be fickle. The Good Shepherd is willing to die for you...and He did!

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (14-18)

Throughout Jesus’ life, we see Him submitting to the Father and the Father’s timing.

As usual, Jesus upset the religious people.

At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We’ll unpack the reaction of the Jews further next week.

So What?
Like sheep, we live in a dangerous world. It might not seem dangerous, but there is a real thief who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He will do anything and everything to speak lies, kill your passion for Jesus, and ultimately destroy you and everything good in your life.

The thing is, because he’s sneaky and because we often fail to spend time with the Good Shepherd, we mistaken the voice of the enemy for the voice of Jesus. We justify our behaviors because everyone else is doing it. We rationalize the importance of being politically correct and flee from controversy. We want to blend in, be liked, and do what’s popular.

We all need guidance to navigate through life, but we must make sure we are listening to the right voice. The only way to do that is to spend time with the Good Shepherd.

I can’t do that for you. Your parents or spouse cannot do that for you. Discerning the voice that brings abundant life requires time in prayer, solitude, silence, and study. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Whose voice matters to you? A recent study asked high school students where they would turn first in times of crisis or confusion. Mothers came in around number eleven and dads around 25. Friends and music were at the top!

Students, daddy often knows best. In the case of our heavenly Daddy, He always knows best.

Friends are influential, not only to students, but adults as well. When is the last time you experienced a tension between popular opinion and the teachings of Jesus? Do you even know the difference?

As we continue our annual theme of b.l.e.s.s. I want to encourage you to remain on your knees in prayer, listen to God, and study His Word. It’s not rocket science. The more time you spend with someone, the more you’ll know their voice.

C.S. Lewis said that there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you follow it?

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