The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, 2 Chronicles 17:3
We know King David. And Solomon. Maybe even Hezekiah and Josiah. But there were many other kings in Judah, and admittedly, many were terrible. However, there were some good kings, not perfect kings, but good kings. These good kings can serve as examples of things we can do even in our culture, in our lives to honor God. Last week we looked at King Asa, a man who wanted to please God but wavered and failed to follow through. Today we’ll look at the reign and character of his son, Jehoshaphat.
Because of his father’s long reign, Jehoshaphat was thirty-five when he began to reign. 2 Chronicles 17:4 tells us he followed God’s commandments and God established the kingdom in his hand. Furthermore, “he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 17:5-6 The rest of 2 Chronicles 17 details his military success, to the point that neighboring nations were reluctant to challenge him.
But that’s not the whole story. Jehoshaphat was willing, even eager, to align himself with the ungodly. 1 Chronicles 18 details his cooperation with King Ahab in the battle of Ramoth-Gilead against the king of Syria. Ahab was constantly held up as the worst example of ungodliness. When Jehoshaphat returned home from that battle safely (thanks to God’ deliverance) he was met by the prophet Jehu.
“Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.” 2 Chronicles 19:2-3
How do we respond to our enemies? Christ instructs us to love our enemies. That’s not negotiable. However, loving them does not mean we should help them advance their anti-God agenda.
This warning seems to have gotten Jehoshaphat back on track. 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 detail his reforms to the judicial system in Judah. He appointed judges and solemnly instructed them to weigh the cases based on merits, with the fear of the Lord as their overarching motivation.
How do we respond to correction? Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us it is part of being a true child of God. We should use it as an opportunity to renew our commitment to Christ and His cause.
It never fails. When things are going along pretty well, that is usually the signal for the enemy to try something. In Jehoshaphat’s case, it was the armies of Moab, Ammon and their allies. They came marching toward Jerusalem with overwhelming forces. The king proclaimed a fast.
O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12
It wasn’t long before God moved another prophet, Jahaziel, with the response.
Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. … You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17
How do we respond when overwhelmed? I’ll be honest. I don’t usually respond like Jehoshaphat. Digging myself into a bigger hole by complaining about the injustice of my situation is more typical. But this advice/reassurance from God is just like what He told His people at the Red Sea back in Exodus 14:13-14. Do not be afraid. Do not be dismayed.
True to His word, God intervened and Judah went home rejoicing after a rout of their enemies.
Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat’s life story doesn’t end with that great victory. God is not afraid to show the shortcomings of his people. Jehoshaphat arranged a marriage between his son and heir, Jehoram, and the daughter of Ahab, and continued to seek alliances with the wicked kings of Israel. Perhaps because of his soft stance on the kings of Israel, his son took a page from their playbook. Once Jehoram was firmly established as king, he had all his brothers executed.
That fomented a period of bloody unrest and uncertainty that lasted until Jehoram’s seven-year-old grandson, Joash, was crowned. Next week, we’ll look at what we can learn from a child king.