“These things . . . were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.”
1, 2. Why will we consider the examples of four kings of Judah?
IF YOU saw someone slip and fall on a path, you would likely be careful when walking on that same path. In the same way, by examining the mistakes that others have made in their lives, we can avoid making similar errors. For example, we can learn from the mistakes of people mentioned in the Bible.
2 The four Judean kings we read about in the previous article served Jehovah with a complete heart. Yet they still made serious mistakes. Their experiences were written in the Bible so that we can meditate on them and learn valuable lessons. What can we learn from what happened to them, and how can we avoid making the same mistakes they did?
RELYING ON HUMAN WISDOM LEADS TO DISASTER
3-5. (a) Although Asa’s heart was complete toward Jehovah, what mistake did he make? (b) Why might Asa have relied on humans when fighting against Baasha?
3 Let us first consider Asa. He relied on Jehovah when one million Ethiopians attacked Judah. However, he did not rely on Jehovah when he fought against Baasha, the king of Israel. Asa wanted to stop Baasha from fortifying Ramah, which was an important city in Israel near the border of the kingdom of Judah. (2 Chronicles 16:1-3) Asa decided that it would be good to bribe the king of Syria to help him. When the Syrians attacked the cities of Israel, Baasha “immediately quit building Ramah and abandoned his work on it.” (2 Chronicles 16:5) At first, Asa may have thought that he made the right decision.
4 But how did Jehovah feel? Jehovah was not pleased that Asa did not rely on him, and he sent the prophet Hanani to correct Asa. (Read 2 Chronicles 16:7-9.) Hanani told Asa: “From now on there will be wars against you.” Asa took control of the city of Ramah, but for the rest of his life, he and his people had to fight many wars.
5 In the previous article, we learned that Jehovah was pleased with Asa. Although Asa was imperfect, God saw that Asa’s heart was devoted to him. (1 Kings 15:14) Even so, when Asa made a bad decision, he could not avoid the consequences. Why did he rely on himself and other humans and not on Jehovah? Perhaps Asa thought that he could use clever military methods to win the war. Or he may have listened to bad advice from others.
In all situations, we must rely on Jehovah, not on our own thinking
6. What can we learn from Asa’s mistake? Give an example.
6 What can we learn from Asa’s mistake? In all situations, we must rely on Jehovah, not on our own thinking. We need to ask him for help, whether our problems are big or small. It is good to think about this: Do we sometimes rely on ourselves by trying to solve a problem in the way we think is best? Or do we always consider first what the Bible says and then try to use that information to solve our problems? For example, suppose your family makes it difficult for you to attend a meeting or an assembly. Will you ask Jehovah to help you know what to do in that situation? Or maybe after being without a job for a long time, you finally find someone who wants to employ you. Will you tell him that you have meetings you must attend every week and risk not getting the job? Whatever the problem may be, we must remember the psalmist’s advice: “Commit your way to Jehovah; rely on him, and he will act in your behalf.”
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF WE CHOOSE THE WRONG KIND OF FRIENDS?
7, 8. What mistakes did Jehoshaphat make, and with what results? (See opening picture.)
7 Let us now consider the example of Asa’s son Jehoshaphat. He had many good qualities that Jehovah was pleased with. And when he relied on Jehovah, he did many good things. But he also made some bad decisions. For example, he arranged for his son to marry the daughter of wicked King Ahab. Later, Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in fighting the Syrians, even though the prophet Micaiah warned him not to. In the battle, the Syrians attacked Jehoshaphat and tried to kill him. (2 Chronicles 18:1-32) When he returned to Jerusalem, the prophet Jehu asked him: “Is it the wicked you should be helping, and is it those who hate Jehovah you should love?”
8 Did Jehoshaphat learn from what happened to him and from the prophet’s warning? Sadly, he did not. Although he still loved Jehovah and wanted to please him, Jehoshaphat again made friends with a man who did not want to worship Jehovah. This man was King Ahaziah, the son of Ahab. Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah built ships together. But the ships were wrecked before they could even use them.
9. What can happen if we choose the wrong kind of friends?
9 What can we learn from what happened to Jehoshaphat? Jehoshaphat did what was right and “searched for Jehovah with all his heart.” (2 Chronicles 22:9) Yet he chose to spend time with people who did not love Jehovah, and this caused serious problems in his life. In fact, he almost got killed. Remember the Bible proverb: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) We want to tell others about Jehovah. Still, it would be dangerous to become close friends with people who do not serve him.
Do you believe that God will take care of your need for love and companionship?
10. (a) If we want to get married, what can we learn from Jehoshaphat? (b) What should we remember?
10 If we would like to get married, for example, what can we learn from Jehoshaphat? Perhaps we may begin to have romantic feelings for someone who does not love Jehovah. We may think that we will not find someone among God’s people to marry. Or some of our relatives might keep telling us that we need to marry before we get too old. It is true that Jehovah created us with the need to love and be loved. However, if we cannot find the right person to marry, what should we do? One thing that can help us is to meditate on what happened to Jehoshaphat. He usually asked Jehovah for guidance. (2 Chronicles 18:4-6) But when he became a friend of Ahab, who did not love Jehovah, Jehoshaphat ignored Jehovah’s warning. Jehoshaphat should have remembered that “the eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) We too should remember that Jehovah wants to help us. He understands our situation and loves us. Do you believe that God will take care of your need for love and companionship? Be sure that at some point he will!
DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BECOME PROUD
11, 12. (a) What did Hezekiah do that revealed what was in his heart? (b) Why did Jehovah forgive Hezekiah?
11 What lesson can we learn from Hezekiah? Jehovah helped Hezekiah to see what was truly in his heart. (Read 2 Chronicles 32:31.) When Hezekiah got very sick, God told him that he would get better and gave him a sign to reassure him. Jehovah made the shadow on a stairway move back ten steps. Later, it seems that the princes of Babylon wanted to find out more about that sign, and they sent men to Hezekiah to ask him about it. (2 Kings 20:8-13; 2 Chronicles 32:24) Jehovah did not tell Hezekiah how to treat them. The Bible says that Jehovah “left him alone” to see what he would do. Hezekiah showed the men from Babylon all the treasures he had. This revealed what was in Hezekiah’s heart. In what way?
12 Sadly, Hezekiah had become proud. As a result, he “did not respond appreciatively to the good done to him.” The Bible does not say why his attitude changed. Perhaps it was because of his victory over the Assyrians or because Jehovah had healed him. Or maybe it was because he had become rich and famous. Although Hezekiah had served Jehovah with a complete heart, for a time he became proud and Jehovah was not pleased. But later, “Hezekiah humbled himself,” and God forgave him.
The way we react when others praise us could reveal what is in our heart
13, 14. (a) What situation could reveal what is in our heart? (b) How should we react when others praise us?
13 What can we learn from Hezekiah and the mistake he made? Remember that Hezekiah acted proudly soon after Jehovah helped him to defeat the Assyrians and healed him of his sickness. So when good things happen to us or when others praise us, what will we do? The way we react could reveal what is in our heart. For example, a brother may have worked hard to prepare a talk and give it to a large audience. Many praise him for what he has done. How will he react to the praise?
14 We should always remember what Jesus said: “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) Remember that when Hezekiah became proud, he did not appreciate how Jehovah had helped him. So when others praise us for a talk we gave, what will help us to remain humble? We can meditate on what Jehovah has done for us. And we can speak about him and how he has helped us. After all, he is the one who has given us the Bible and his holy spirit to be able to give the talk.
LET JEHOVAH GUIDE YOU WHEN MAKING DECISIONS
15, 16. What did Josiah do that resulted in his death?
15 Finally, what can we learn from Josiah? Although Josiah was a good king, he made a mistake that resulted in his death. (Read 2 Chronicles 35:20-22.) What happened? Josiah started a war with Necho, the king of Egypt, although there was no reason to do so. In fact, Necho himself told Josiah that he did not want to fight against him. The Bible says that Necho’s words were “from the mouth of God.” But Josiah went to war and was killed. So why did he fight Necho? The Bible does not say.
16 Josiah should have found out if what Necho had said was truly from Jehovah. How? He could have asked Jeremiah, one of Jehovah’s prophets. (2 Chronicles 35:23, 25) Also, Josiah should have considered the facts. Necho was going to Carchemish to fight against another nation, not against Jerusalem. And Necho did not try to insult Jehovah or his people. Josiah did not think carefully about these things before he made his decision. What is the lesson for us? When we have a problem and need to make a decision, we should first consider what Jehovah might want us to do.
17. When we have problems, how can we avoid making a mistake like the one Josiah made?
17 When we have to make a decision, we first need to think about what Bible principles can help us and how we can apply them. In some cases, we may want to do more research in our publications or even ask an elder for advice. He could help us to think about other Bible principles. Imagine this situation: A sister is married to someone who is not a Witness. She plans to go out in the ministry on a particular day. (Acts 4:20) But on that day, her husband does not want her to go preaching. He tells her that they have not spent much time together lately and that he would like to take her out somewhere. So the sister considers Bible verses that can help her make a wise decision. She knows that she must obey God and that Jesus commanded us to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 5:29) But she also remembers that a wife should be in subjection to her husband and that God’s servants must be reasonable. (Ephesians 5:22-24; Philippians 4:5) Is her husband trying to stop her from preaching, or does he just want to spend time with her that day? As Jehovah’s servants, we want to make decisions that are reasonable and that please him.
MAINTAIN A COMPLETE HEART AND REJOICE
18. What can you learn from meditating on the examples of these four kings of Judah?
18 At times, we too may make any one of the mistakes that these four kings of Judah made. We might (1) rely on our own thinking, (2) choose the wrong kind of friends, (3) have a proud attitude, or (4) make decisions without first considering what God’s will is. Even so, there is no reason to feel that we can never please Jehovah. He sees the good in us, just as he saw the good in those four kings. Jehovah also sees how much we love him and how much we want to serve him fully. So he has provided us with examples that can help us avoid making serious mistakes. Let us meditate on these Bible accounts and be thankful that Jehovah has provided them for us!