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Jehoshaphat (1)

J Gibson, Derby

(1 Kings 15.24; 22.1-50; 2 Kings 3; 2 Chr 17-21.1; 22.9; Joel 3.2,12)

Despite his unholy alliances, Jehoshaphat was an exceptional king. His godly 25 year reign, recorded in Chronicles, Kings, and Jehu’s writings (2 Chr 20.34), contrasted sharply with Ahab’s contemporary wicked rule of the North. Jehoshaphat followed good examples. He emulated Asa his own father and continued stedfastly in "the first ways [before Bathsheba] of his father David" (2 Chr 17.3). With wholehearted determination, Jehoshaphat sought the Lord, "and walked in his commandments" (2 Chr 17.4). Therefore, "his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord" (2 Chr 17.6), not through pride as with Uzziah, but with "rising courage to advance in ways pleasing to God".1 In the beginning of his reign, Jehoshaphat strengthened himself against the idolatrous Northern kingdom, completely rejected Baalim, and refused to walk after "the doings of Israel" (2 Chr 17.1-4). Sadly, however, Jehoshaphat failed to retain that clear distinction between himself and Ahab; he finally made peace with him (1 Kings 22.44). May we, like Jehoshaphat, choose good role models, and by continued obedience to God’s Word, make steady progress in our Christian lives. In contrast to Jehoshaphat, we must avoid unequal yokes.

Jehoshaphat’s Kingdom

(1 Kings 15.24; 22.41-46; 2 Chr 17; 19.4-11; 20.31-34; 22.9)

Asa, his father, had waged a sustained attack on idolatry. Because of this, Jehoshaphat, at the age of 35 and only four years into Ahab’s rule, inherited a kingdom relatively free from corruption. Having said this, residual traces of idolatry – "high places and Asherahs" (2 Chr 17.6, JND) – and its accompanying immorality – "sodomites" (1 Kings 22.46) – still needed addressing. Idols, whether in Old Testament Israel, or the New Testament believer’s heart, are very much like garden weeds. Fail to remove them all, and they will soon spring up again. Neglect garden weeding for a few weeks in summer, and weeds will be rampant. So too, freedom from spiritual idolatry is only achievable by continual effort and self discipline. Jehoshaphat’s endeavours in this matter were severely hampered because "the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers" (2 Chr 20.33), for unwillingness on the part of God’s people can greatly diminish even the influence of truly godly leaders.

God honoured Jehoshaphat with His own presence. In addition, "the Lord stablished the kingdom in his hand" and granted him national and international acclaim. Just as God had previously protected Israel by terrifying their enemies (Gen 35.5; Ex 15.14-16), He now did the same for Judah and Jehoshaphat. In relation to his kingdom, Jehoshaphat threw himself into four important activities.

A. Protection. The army’s primary purpose was to protect against the northern tribes of Israel. Its orderly structure included strongholds – a nucleus at Jerusalem, satellite garrisons throughout Judah – five clearly defined regiments and their officers. The soldiers themselves were "mighty men of valour" (2 Chr 17.13), highly skilled in the art of war (e.g. archery), and always ready to do the king’s bidding. "Amasiah the son of Zichri"’ was especially singled out because he was a man "who willingly offer himself unto the Lord" (2 Chr 17.16). These same admirable features ought to characterise local churches: orderliness (1 Cor 14.40); courageousness (Eph 6.10); giftedness (1 Cor 12); readiness (2 Tim 4.2); willingness (Phil 2.30).

B. Instruction. Princes, priests, and Levites, true to their calling (Deut 33.10; Mal 2.7), and at Jehoshaphat’s behest, taught "the law of the Lord" throughout Judah. The inherent tendency for every Christian to veer off course, like a car with faulty steering, also demands ongoing Bible teaching in every local assembly, so keeping us on the "straight and narrow".

C. Construction. "Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles and cities of store" (2 Chr 17.12). In like manner, the industrious Christian will skilfully build into the local assembly gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3.12), for "in all labour there is profit" (Prov 14.23).

D. Jurisdiction. Jehoshaphat expanded and formalised Israel’s national justice system, which was originally introduced by Moses (Ex 18.13-26). That even Israel needed a formal legal system reminds us that judgement will always be necessary in a sinful world. Every community, whether secular or ecclesiastical, experiences disputes which must be dealt with quickly and effectively if harmony is to be maintained. A local church, for example, should have the ability to self-regulate, without appealing to secular authorities (1 Cor 6.1-3).

Judgment is a solemn issue because it belongs to God (Deut 1.17). He accompanies earthly judges, especially courageous ones (2 Chr 19.6,11), and even attached His name to them (Ex 22.28; Ps 82.6; Jn 10.34). Therefore, justice must be exercised with due reverence, at all costs avoiding the corruption that arises from respect of persons, intimidation, or bribery (2 Chr 19.7,9). Let every earthly judge take heed – God’s wrath rests on corrupt judges (2 Chr 19.10) – and every citizen, especially believers, acknowledge that "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom 13.1). Two important aspects of any judicial system are accessibility, and the capacity to deal with many straightforward cases and a small number of highly complex scenarios. Jehoshaphat’s hub and spoke system – a supreme court at Jerusalem and provincial courts throughout Judah’s cities – provided such a balance (2 Chr 19.8-11).

Jehoshaphat’s Victory

(2 Chr 20.1-30; Joel 3.2,12)

Prayer (vv.1-17)

Suddenly, and without prior warning or provocation, Jehoshaphat faced a massive assault consisting of Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites. Despite being fearful, a common experience among saints, at this critical time he provided true spiritual leadership for the nation: Jehoshaphat led them to pray. In wonderful harmony, all Judah gathered with their families at the temple to fast and "ask help of the Lord". They humbly confessed their weakness, ignorance, and utter dependence on Elohim, "the mighty leader"2 (v.12). Jehoshaphat himself pleaded skilfully on the basis of Biblical revelation:

God’s power (v.6). Abiding in heaven, far above His creation, God rules all nations with irresistible power. Before such omnipotence these three nations were weak.

God’s promise (v.7). Having promised Canaan to Abram and his seed as an inheritance, God expelled the original inhabitants before Israel. Hence, their enemies had no right to drive Judah out.

God’s presence (vv.8-9). Although God’s dwelling is in heaven, He condescended to associate Himself with the Jerusalem temple and answer prayers made there (2 Chr 6.18-21; 7.15).

God’s prohibition (vv.10-11). God had previously prevented Israel from attacking these three specific nations (Deut 2.4-9; 17-19). Therefore, the present assault was completely unprovoked.

Prayer is the best response to extremities. The importance of praying in unity with other believers cannot be underestimated (Mt 18.19). So, too, it is crucial to involve our children in the spiritual activities of a local church which is "the house of God" (1 Tim 3.15). As in Jehoshaphat’s case, humility and Biblical intelligence will jointly fit us well for an effective prayer-life.

God answered their prayers (vv.14-19). Twice over the prophet exhorted them to "fear not, nor be dismayed", reassuring them of God’s presence and intervention: "the battle is not yours, but God’s" (vv.15-17). God knew the coalition’s movements and plans. Judah was simply to advance against their enemy, stand still, and see the Lord’s salvation. This message resulted in worship.

Praise (vv.18-30)

Praise, faith, and joy, all of which are interlinked, permeate this section. In response to God’s promise of deliverance, Jehoshaphat and his people worshipped. Full of expectancy, "they rose early in the morning" (v.20). Contrary to all conventional wisdom in the art of war, Judah headed up their hosts, not with crack troops, but rather with singers to "praise the beauty of holiness [a reverential paraphrase for God]" (v.21). This was at Jehoshaphat’s appointment, who assured the people, "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (v.20). True to His word, "the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten" (v.22). In fact, "every one helped to destroy another" (v.23). This victory was so great – "none escaped" (v.24) – that it actually anticipated Messiah’s future destruction of rebellious Gentile nations (Joel 3.2,12).

Judah was enriched, filled with joy, and entered a peaceful season after God’s fear fell on the surrounding nations (vv.25-30). And so this section finishes with more worship (vv.26,28). Faith in God’s Word is also essential for our spiritual conflicts. This will lead to joyful hearts that overflow with God’s praise. Just as Judah was enriched by the spoils of war, so, with God’s help, we can fully enjoy the vast store of heavenly riches which are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 1.3).

To be continued.

1Keil & Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1996), 3:627.

2Ryrie C C. Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), p. 51.


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