Asa had provided a strong foundation for his son and successor. Despite failing in patience and dedication in his latter years, Asa had strengthened Judah’s position both politically and spiritually. After Asa died, Jehoshaphat took the throne and built upon the positive policies of his father (2 Chr. 17:1-2). In spiritual matters especially, Jehoshaphat “walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel” (2 Chr. 17:3-4). His character reigned in Judah so much that he received the blessings of stability in the land and the loyalty and love of the people (2 Chr. 17:5). Moreover, he used his influence to encourage greater understanding of and obedience to the Law by sending leaders throughout the land to act as teachers (2 Chr. 17:7-9). Jehoshaphat’s actions led to others respecting the LORD’s authority, even among the nations around them (2 Chr. 17:10-11), so that Jehoshaphat was able to strengthen Judah militarily against her potential enemies (2 Chr. 17:12-19). However, the inspired text offers a simple but profound explanation for Jehoshaphat’s success, an explanation rooted in his motivation for doing all of this. In 2 Chronicles 17:6 it says of Jehoshaphat, “And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.” This statement reveals a level of dedication that matters greatly. His father had a loyal heart but did not remove all the high places (2 Chr. 15:17); Jehoshaphat had a heart filled with joy in the ways of the LORD and took the extra step.
We regularly see discussions recognizing the differences created by how much respect someone has for biblical authority (Col. 3:17; Rom. 4:3). We cringe when we see well-meaning brethren take verses out of context to support their position, even if it is not a matter affecting salvation, the church, or daily living (Mt. 22:29). We emphasize the importance of faithfulness in executing God’s will through consistent obedience (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 5:8-9). But when was the last time you pondered the difference spiritually between doing God’s will from a sense of loyalty and responsibility and doing God’s will from the sheer joy of pleasing Him (1 Th. 4:1; Mt. 22:37-38)? Herein lies the difference between feeling an external obligation to God and feeling an internal love for God. So many Christians today live out of obligation but never transform their attitudes and their lives to living and obeying from a love for God (Jn. 14:15). And that is a pity, because a heart that “takes delight in the ways of the LORD” will be motivated beyond spiritual necessity to strive for the spiritual possibilities, to go beyond what is required, simply because that is what God wants and what God is like. More than that, this reveals an important truth: finding joy first in doing God’s will is the key to finding joy in life itself.