Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) - a man who sought God

It is good to examine what influences our lives and decisions...Is it the truth of God or some other source of information?  How do we know if we are really loving God, our families and our neighbors?  What cautions, examples or warnings are in the Scriptures that we can learn from?  The life of Jehoshaphat has many lessons for us in these and other areas that can direct our lives to love and obey God.  So the question is, how are you or how am I like Jehoshaphat?

Jehoshaphat was a godly man.  He was a king who sought, loved and obeyed God.  Jehoshaphat was king of Judah in the land of Israel.  He was the son of Asa, a descendant of king David.  The kings of Judah had been opposed to the kings of Israel for several reasons.  There was rebellion in the land of Israel against the descendants of David; there was rebellion to the commands of God.

When Jehoshaphat came to power and succeeded his father, Asa, we see the following conditions:

Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel. And he placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken. Now the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he 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 Chron. 17:1-4).

So there are very good things found about Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah:

·        He strengthened the cities to protect the land and the people from their enemies

·        He sought the God of his fathers, such as king David did

·        He walked in God’s commandments (was obedient and loving)

·        He didn’t follow the ways of the corrupt kings of Israel

·        He didn’t seek false gods or follow the nations who worship Baal and other things

And for following, seeking and obeying God there are rich blessings.  God gives promises to bless His people and He keeps His promises.  So we see that there were very good results from the life that Jehoshaphat lived.

We see that he continued to seek the Lord and to add to what God was showing him.  Even as it tells us today “to add to our faith, goodness, and to goodness knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control perseverance, and to perseverance godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1).  Jehoshaphat loved God and taught others to do the same.  Here’s what the Scriptures retell about him:

“Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah. Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.  And with them he sent Levites…and with them…the priests.  So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.” (2 Chron. 17:5-9).

Jehoshaphat not only believed in God for himself and his family, but he also sent throughout the land of Judah leaders, priest and teachers to instruct the people how they should please God.  Jehoshaphat was evangelically minded!

As a result of this, other nations were afraid because the people of Judah were drawing close to God and walking in His ways, and that means a dreadful thing for those who do not obey the Word of God and His truth.  Scripture teaches that one man of God will put 1,000 to flight, but two men of God will put 10,000 to flight.  God doesn’t need big numbers, just truly faithful men who will hold to His commands and be bold enough to teach others to also obey and keep His commands.

We read, “And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.  Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. So Jehoshaphat became increasingly powerful, and he built fortresses and storage cities in Judah.  He had much property in the cities of Judah; and the men of war, mighty men of valor, were in Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 17:10-13).

Can you believe it?  Peace in the middle-east!  Even the Arabs came and gave gifts to the king of the Jews because they were afraid of God and wanted to make peace with them.  So being faithful and obedient to God can even lead to your enemies making peace with you—whether in the muslim Middle East or in the liberal land of America, with God all things are possible!

But then we see some subtle things began to happen in the life of Jehoshaphat—some things that he may have figured were “disputable matters”;  things that, “well, God really didn’t have anything clear to say about.”  Actually God did have things to say, but Jehoshaphat was seeking to make peace by means other than what God prescribes.  We recall earlier that, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).  So how should we pursue peace?  Should we hold on to the world with one hand and hold onto God with the other, and somehow hope to make the two meet?  Should we change some of the things we do (that God once showed us to do in obedience and faith) so that we won’t “offend” or “turn off” or “lose opportunities with” people in the world?  Maybe some things are “too hard” for people to accept or understand.  So by not practicing or talking about those things, can we somehow bring about peace?

Hebrews 12:14 commands us to pursue peace with men while also maintaining holiness, because without holiness, NO ONE will see the LORD.  If we remember to maintain holiness and truly walk in the fear of God and tremble at His word, then we can trust God to establish the works of our hands. We can exercise faith in our heavenly Father who created all things by His powerful word. We can follow Christ who didn’t seek the favor of men but of God. And we can wage spiritual warfare, not by the works of the flesh, or by intellect, or by flattery and appealing to peoples preferences, or by wise and persuasive speech, or by learning and knowledge, but by the deeds of faith.  Noah condemned the world by this faith of his, and through the fear of God he built an ark which saved him and seven of his family members—thus preserving a small remnant of God who then still needed to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  Ok, so let’s look at how this applies to the life of Jehoshaphat who was seeking God and who sought to be at peace with men.

Jehoshaphat started by marrying a relative of Ahab king of Israel and becoming his ally.  Now here is where we must look at who Ahab and his family were.  Ahab was a king that did evil and sinned greatly.  He built altars to foreign gods and set up places for them to be worshipped.  “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel” (1 Kings 21:25-26).  Ahab didn’t verbally reject God and he even had prophets, priests and other objects of worship for the God of Israel, but he mixed the worship of God with all kinds of other worship of pagan Gods.  Also, Ahab spread wickedness through the land because he followed the ways of the nations and listened to his rebellious wife who encouraged him to do things that were against God’s commands.  They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations around them.  God had commanded Israel “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates.” And “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.”  Jezebel was a bad influence on Ahab and was like a serpent speaking lies in the ears of Ahab. 

So Ahab was a wicked king, but at the same time he had some consideration for the feelings of others.  When he wanted a man’s vineyard, he nicely asked for it and even promised the man a better one!  When the man refused he went away sad and told his wife the story.  Jezebel couldn’t let that rest; she called a fast and then had two men falsely accuse the owner of the vineyard and say he cursed God and the king.  The owner of the vineyard then got stoned for “blasphemy.” Jezebel was eager to think up ways of “getting things done”.  She would backbite, threaten, lie or kill to get control and maintain her position of influence.  And she would never submit to godly authority or to rebukes like those of Elijah the prophet who also lived in those days.  Elijah had confronted Ahab and Jezebel many times about their sin.  Jezebel hated the prophet and wanted him dead.

Now that we have some background on Ahab, remember that Jehoshaphat married one of Ahab’s relatives…not likely a good candidate for marriage, and Jehoshaphat’s reasoning was truly against God’s will of having no fellowship with darkness and being unequally yoked.  Then, in the course of time, Jehoshaphat was asked and agreed to go to war as Ahab’s ally, to help him in his battle against a foreign army.  The Scriptures tell us that Jehoshaphat had been seeking the Lord. So what do you think he did?  Let’s find out:

“But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel [Ahab], ‘First seek the counsel of the LORD.’ So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, ‘Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’
      ‘Go,’ they answered, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king's hand’” (1 Kings 22:5-6).

So Ahab had about 400 prophets of the Lord.  But Jehoshaphat also had discernment and could see through the hypocrisy of the 400 man-pleasing prophets and asked:

"Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?"

Then, we get a very sobering answer from Ahab about a true prophet of the Lord:

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man 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."
      "The king should not say that," Jehoshaphat replied.

See how Jehoshaphat is still trying to “win over” Ahab and be a “good influence” on him.  He even tries to make Ahab more tolerant of godly things and to not be so negative toward those who proclaim the Word of God.  We are seeing the making of a very shrewd and ecumenical king Jehoshaphat.  He even persuaded King Ahab to ask for a true prophet of God!

Since Jehoshaphat was getting counsel from the Lord and was not content to just settle for the voice of the 400 man-pleasing, peace and prosperity prophets, let’s see what God said:

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, "Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably."
But Micaiah said, "As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says…I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, 'These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.'
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Didn't I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?"
The king of Israel then ordered, "Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king's son and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.'"
Micaiah declared, "If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me." Then he added, "Mark my words, all you people!"

So Jehoshaphat still went to war with Ahab, and Ahab was killed according to the prophecy of the prophet of God.  We see that Jehoshaphat asked counsel of God and did what any “good American Christian” would do.  When he is counseled to do something that goes against what he thinks should be done to “become all things to all people” or in order to “win some” for the Lord, he goes ahead and does what he thought should be done in the first place and does not follow the counsel of God as spoken through the mouth of a faithful messenger.

Then, another man of God came and spoke to Jehoshaphat on his way back from battle:

“Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned safely to his house in Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.”

So there was still some good found in Jehoshaphat, but because of his disobedience to the counsel of the Lord spoken by the prophet the “wrath of the Lord” was upon him.  Romans chapter 1 says that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all who resist or suppress the truth.  It doesn’t matter if you have discernment, it doesn’t matter if you are the wisest king on the earth like Solomon, it doesn’t matter if you have been seeking the Lord and have been granted victories in His name…the Father is looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth and for those who will love, not only in word, but in action and in truth.  It is not your understanding of truth or your definition of it that counts; what matter’s is God’s truth.  Jesus came to testify to the truth.  The world will hate us if we hold to His truth and if we don’t just talk about it. We must testify to the truth by walking it out in our lives by faith and obedience, which comes from a pure heart guided by love. 

It was said of Jehoshaphat, “In everything he walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel.” 

So his desire for peace led him to compromise and to tolerate wicked things and to fellowship with those who were in darkness, even though they claimed to listen to the same God.  He also did not command and prevent the people from having their own “high places” where they could do as they pleased.  He allowed them to do as they thought best, and he did not want to interfere or disrupt the peace and unity of the kingdoms. 

Jehoshaphat doesn’t “fall away” per se.  He holds on to his own form of man-made peace while he also holds to the understanding of encouraging others not to sin and to live righteously in their hearts.  He continues to experience victory from God also mixed with loss, wrath and stern rebukes.  During a great battle he trusts in the Lord who gives him victory and who makes his enemies to be at peace with him.  But he later goes and makes another alliance with a king who is not fully pleasing to God.  Jehoshaphat loses the whole fleet of ships he built in the alliance and is rebuked by yet another prophet. 

Finally Jehoshaphat dies and we see his son Jehoram take his place as king.  His son follows the example left by Jehoshaphat who tolerated certain things: First, Jehoram makes an alliance with Ahab by marrying his daughter.  Then, he proceeds to set up sacrifices in the high places that were left by his father Jehoshaphat.  Finally, he causes all of Judah to turn aside and worship falsely at the high places, just like Ahab had done, in opposition to the commandments of the Lord.  Jehoram also kills his 6 younger brothers so that no other heirs are left.  God, in turn, raises up the Arabs, Philistines and Cushites to attack, kill and carry off the sons and wives of Jehoram along with all the king’s goods. 

So in the 25 years of Jehoshaphat’s seeking God, being blessed with glory and honor and wealth and descendants, gaining great victory in battle by faith, receiving peace with Arabs because of obedience, strengthening the land against it’s enemies, and teaching Judah to fear God and turning the people to seek the Lord … the leaven that he left, and the compromise he permitted, undid all of these blessings and accomplishments in less than 8 years!  No more peace with the Arabs, no wealth, no victory in battle, no fear of God, no worship of the Lord, no strength against enemies and only one descendant left to him—and that only because of God’s promise given to David to preserve his line forever.

It is heart-wrenching enough to make me weep.  Was it all in vain?  What about us?  Will we learn from this?  Will we take heed?  Will the rebuke go on deaf ears or will it produce repentance and change in our generation? 

Galatians 6:7 proclaims a very simple truth:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”  In another translation that verse says, “Don’t be fooled.  You can’t outsmart God.”

Do you realize that?  You cannot outsmart God!  You may think you have come up with a way of preaching that is better than God—not the “foolishness of preaching to save those who believe” but some other form of social, psychological, musically-acceptable or friendship evangelism.  You may think you can have men and women relationships that aren’t according to the purity and example of the Scriptures and not reap the consequences of it.  You may think that you have discovered a new definition of modesty and godliness that is all about “the heart” and about what you think, but is never considerate of how your outward appearance will affect those around you.  You may think you can have unity by compromise and by legislating what people can’t talk about because it might cause others to be “uncomfortable.”  You may think you can overlook false doctrine and disregard the Word of God and still save yourself and your hearers.  You may think you are proved right by having many who agree with you.  You may think that you can sort through filth of one form or another, but have the discernment to not be affected by it.  You may think you can defile your temple and not get destroyed by God.  You may think that you can judge others and not be judged yourself.  You may think you can teach and not be judged more strictly.  You may think that you can call everything a disputable matter and “areas that shouldn’t be judged” when they conflict with what you are unwilling to command and restrain your wife or children from doing, and that you won’t experience disorder and confusion as a result.  You may think you can hide sin in your life by doing something that looks good to others.  You may think you can follow the pattern of this world and still get God’s approval in doing it. (However, God knows and sees your heart!)  You may think that you can have love and fellowship while continuing to avoid, reject or ignore counsel, instruction and rebuke.  You may think that you can do some or all of these things because you are strong or wise, but don’t forget, “You can’t outsmart God.”

It appears that Jehoshaphat “just made it” while he caused his whole family to perish.  But what about us?  We have it a lot easier now that Jesus came right?  God looks at us from some different perspective that provides us more room … or does He?  Hebrews 12 contains a comparison of both the old and new covenants and the responsibilities and effects of both:
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,  and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.”  And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”  Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”

True men of God are needed in our time to rise up and lead their families, to instruct their brothers and sisters in Christ, to feed the body of Christ, to encourage, rebuke and exhort, to have patience and endurance, to preach uncompromised, to be quick to hear, to walk by faith, to hold to the truth, to set a good example, to shun evil, to be unspotted from the world, to press on to perfection, to deny themselves, to work out their salvations in fear and trembling, to contend for the faith, to make right judgments, to despise man’s wisdom, to be willing to suffer for righteousness, to not fear man, to follow the same rule, to obey God rather than man, to obey man in subjection to God, to submit to those who are older, to love unceasingly, and to restrain and subdue ungodliness in their own homes and churches.

We are living in a generation of Jehoshaphats who say “peace, peace” when there isn’t true peace because men will not die to themselves and live according to the truth.  They want to come up with Scriptural reasons why they can do what seems right to them and not be confronted or exhorted about it.  “You are pushing your opinions and your own convictions on me,” they say.  But no one can disregard God’s truth and get away with it.  God is not partial and He judges righteously and according to the truth as recorded in the book of life.  We must be conformed to Him.  He does not conform to us.  He desires obedience rather than sacrifice.  So start finding out what God’s will is, now that you have tasted of His goodness.  We should want to please Him in every way and in every thing by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  May you be blessed in so doing.  And may the Lord give you strength and insight.  When we are weak, then by His grace we are strong.  Be strong and courageous.