Monday, July 23, 2012

“Jehoshaphat Makes Judicial Reforms” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 29, 2012

Purpose: To accept that the quality of justice is often determined by the character and commitments of the one administering it

Scripture Text: 2 Chronicles 19:4-11

2 Chronicles 19:4-11 (NRSV)
(4) Jehoshaphat resided at Jerusalem; then he went out again among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. (5) He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, (6) and said to the judges, "Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord's behalf; he is with you in giving judgment. (7) Now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes." (8) Moreover in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. (9) He charged them: "This is how you shall act: in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart; (10) whenever a case comes to you from your kindred who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or ordinances, then you shall instruct them, so that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come on you and your kindred. Do so, and you will not incur guilt. (11) See, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king's matters; and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the good!"

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I have searched the scriptures, and I cannot find anything that associates the term “jumping Jehoshaphat” with the main character in today's lesson. As far as I can tell the phrase is first recorded in the 1866 novel The Headless Horseman by Thomas Mayne Reid.

Jehoshaphat was the son Asa, who started out as a very good king of Judah, but towards the end of his reign he failed to trust God. Jehoshaphat seems to revert back to his father's early years. He leads Judah in a real revival and ends up with 25 peaceful years.

The history of the twelve tribes that formed the united nation of Israel can become confusing, so a quick history lesson. The three great kings of the united tribes begins with Saul, who was anointed as king of the tribe of Judah, however he became so popular that the other tribes accepted him as their king also. He was followed by David and Solomon who both served as kings of all twelve tribes. After the death of Solomon however, things changed. There was a power struggle between Solomon's son Rehoboam stationed in Jerusalem and Solomon's appointed superintendent tax collector, Jeroboam a member of the tribe of Ephraim, that had ambitions to be the king. Jeroboam originally used the city of Shechem as the capital, but moved the capital a little further north to Tirzah, then later on the city of Samaria was chosen by king Omri. The ten northern tribes all followed Jeroboam. While the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained with Solomon's son Rehoboam, with the capital remaining in Jerusalem. Thence from this point on the United Kingdom of Israel is divided into the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms who were often were enemies of each other.

Jehoshaphat was the fourth king to reign after Solomon, in the nation of Judah. In today's text you can see where King Jehoshaphat went into neighboring Ephraim (part of the northern kingdom) and tried to convince them to return to the LORD.

Jehoshaphat did many good things and today's text tells us how he sought to provide justice to all the people of his kingdom. In all of the major cities (walled cities) he appointed judges and gave them specific instructions on how to administer justice. His comments in verse 6 should apply to all judges everywhere. “Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the LORD's behalf; he is with you in giving judgment.”

One of the things Jehoshaphat set up was a court in Jerusalem that could review or decide cases where individuals felt slighted. He also divided the cases between civil and religious so that there was a judge for both. The chief priest was over all matters of the LORD, and Zebadiah the governor of Judah was appointed over all matters concerning the rule of the southern kingdom of Judah. Together they acted like a supreme court. In addition the Levites, or those from the tribe of Levy were appointed as officers of the court to carry out any instructions or edicts given by the two courts.

Jehoshaphat was a good king and God rewarded him with some great victories and twenty five years of peace, he was one of the most righteous and pious of all the kings of Judah.

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