Week of July 29: True judicial reform comes from understanding what is important to God


 Lesson for the week of July 29   
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 19:4-11
By Kim Reindl
 Opening question:  What life lessons have you learned from the people closest to you (family or friends) and/or from the place where you grew up (region or hometown)?
 From the time we are very young, we are taught how to live with others in the world around us.   We learn how to behave from the people in our lives, as well as from our surrounding culture.  As a southern girl, I learned early on what it meant to be hospitable in the south.  Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house was a given when I was growing up.  There was always an abundance of food and an open invitation to anyone who might drop by.  My house was the same.  If you were anywhere near Charlemagne Drive when dinner was being prepared, you were certainly going to be invited to stay.  In fact, in the summertime I think some of my friends actually ate more meals at my house than they did their own!  I learned through my family and my southern culture that sharing a meal with others is about more than the food: it’s about opening your home and opening your heart.  This life lesson made it easy for me to understand the value that God places on hospitality and breaking bread together.
 Unfortunately, the lessons that we learn from the people and the culture around us may not always be consistent with what is valued by God.  Such was the problem faced in today’s scripture passage.  We learn in 2 Chronicles 17 and 18 that although Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah in a way that was loyal and pleasing to God, he eventually was allured by the temptation of surrounding cultures.  Ironically, he was enticed by a fellow Israelite, King Ahab of the northern kingdom, “who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25).  Against what Jehoshaphat had learned, which was to follow God through the word of God’s prophets, he chose to follow power and influence instead.  This decision led him astray and threatened his life and the wellbeing of the southern kingdom.  Yet when Jehoshaphat realized the error of his ways, he returned to God and pleaded for help.  God delivered Jehoshaphat from harm.  Hence, Jehoshaphat responded to God’s mercy by instituting judicial reform.
Interestingly, the judicial reform instituted by Jehoshaphat had as its foundation an understanding of the law.  2 Chronicles 19:4 states that Jehoshaphat “went out again among the people…and brought them back to the Lord.”  This “again” indicates Jehoshaphat’s return to the efforts of his first reform when he SENT OFFICIALS, LEVITES, AND PRIESTS INTO THE CITIES OF JUDAH. “They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them; they went around through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people” (2 Chron. 17:6-9). 
Jehoshaphat knew that in order to institute justice, the people needed to understand the law and the ways of the Lord.  The law was to be studied and meditated upon so that the people would come to realize the truth about the God who gave them the law. This was not an exercise in legalism; rather, this was an exercise in character instruction.  Just as when a parent teaches a child “right” from “wrong,” the child learns what is valued by the parent. When we study God’s law, we learn what is valued by God.   In this way God becomes the plumb line, not the surrounding cultures or individual perspective.  It is for this reason that Jehoshaphat tells his appointed judges, “judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord’s behalf” (2 Chron. 19:6).
Judgment is linked with proper instruction because true justice flows from an understanding of what is important to God.  Just as the Israelites could not live or judge righteously if they did not know the teachings of God, we cannot live or act with Godly judgment if we do not know what God values.  In studying the law, as well as the whole of scripture, some of what we learn is that God values life, relationship, and community.  Through learning and meditating on God’s teachings, the heart of God is revealed to us.  Therefore, instruction is of value to us, just as it was to the ancient Israelites, so that we too may “act in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with [our] whole heart” (2 Chron. 19:9).
Questions for further reflection:
 •         In your experience of studying the Bible, what do you find to be important to God?  (i.e., What does God value?)  Give examples to support your perspective.
 •         How does the study of Scripture aid Christian discipleship?  If someone were to ask you, “Why do I need to read and study the Bible?” what would you say?