Read: 2 Chronicles 18:1-21:3 and Psalm 81
Jehoshaphat was a strong leader that loved the Lord with all his heart. In all my years hearing sermons, reading the Bible and other teaching, I don’t recall a sermon series on Jehoshaphat, but much is to be learned from this king that rules over Judah during a tumultuous time in history. His main flaw was trying to advance his personal agenda ahead of God’s plans for Israel. This is complicated and I’ll only scratch the surface this morning. What I hope is that we will learn from this example as we see Jehoshaphat’s great decisions among his misled ideas.
Fast-forward to the end of today’s reading and we read rare words about the kings of this age:
He followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 20:32
He sent officials to teach 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 17:9). He wasn’t swayed by the people of the northern kingdom, though aligning himself with Ahab and later Ahaziah was dangerous.
Ahab was one of the worst kings in the history of Israel (see: Ahab Rejects Warning and Dies for some details). It seems that Jehoshaphat has set his sites on converting Ahab or at least showing him that there is only one God, the true God of all, and not the false gods and idols Jeroboam established in misleading the northern kingdom. Psalm 81 reminds us of their senseless reliance on their own devices. Sad. Lord, help us to be careful as we sit in lofty places while reading stories of old. Help us to see our own misguided thoughts that often get swept away in the tide of a society that is out of step with you.
Chapter 18 provides an example where the two kings meet to discuss a joint battle strategy. Ahab gets his prophets together and they predictably say what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat has a better idea:
But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
2 Chronicles 18:6-7
Jehoshaphat is not afraid to speak his mind, his immediate reaction: “The king should not say such a thing,” (2 Chronicles 18:7b). They sent for Micaiah while Ahab’s prophets kept on proclaiming great victory for their king. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be comical, but this is a deadly serious matter.
Micaiah arrives at the scene where all of these prophets are spouting words of victory:
When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?”
“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.”
The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” 2 Chronicles 18:14-15
Someone please light the sarcasm sign! Ahab really doesn’t like Micaiah, but it gets worse.
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. 2 Chronicles 18:22-23
Zedekiah was offended and he takes it out on Micaiah by slapping him, an incredible insult. Imagine that happening at staff meeting! Undeterred, Micaiah knows the word he has provided is from the Lord. Soon afterward his prophecy becomes reality.
The crazy battle that ensues is discussed in my earlier post, but it never ceases to amaze me how ridiculous this arrangement is and how amazing that God would protect Jehoshaphat in this battle while Ahab is killed by a random arrow.
Chapter 19 begins with a prophet speaking against Jehoshaphat’s decision to help Ahab. It seems that Jehoshaphat is trying to reunite the kingdoms while God is trying to teach them a lesson–he’s out of step with the Lord’s plans, but doesn’t get it.
Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. 2 Chronicles 19:2
It’s a double-edged sword. Jehoshaphat is doing many good things, but keeping company with those who are opposed to God is in fact a bad idea.
Jehoshaphat continues his reforms by establishing judges and enticing people to follow the Lord.
Chapter 20 provides an great example of Jehoshaphat’s reliance on God for direction, especially when nations rage war against Judah. They sought the Lord and he provided–the battle was the Lord’s, no way for man to take credit.
Later, Jehoshaphat attempts to connect with Israel again, but another prophet is sent to correct him:
“Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade. 2 Chronicles 20:37
Up and down, Jehoshaphat rides the rollercoaster of relying on God for the high points and relying on his own strength as low points. Much to learn about his life. I found this post well written: http://thebiblestudy.co.uk/study/king-jehoshaphat/ if you want to read more about Jehoshaphat.
Lord help us to rely only on your word, your will. As we go on mission in this world, give us a discerning heart that sees evil for what it is, yet loves people for who you want them to become. Help us to be in this world, but not of the world.