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153 - Standing Strong . . . Staying Alert

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 2 Chronicles 17–20

We’ve already met Jehoshaphat in the account of Ahab and in the brief mention of Ahab’s son Ahaziah in 1 Kings 22. But the book of 2 Chronicles has much more to say about this king. In fact, four chapters of this book (17–20) are devoted to Jehoshaphat.

So, let’s go over to that parallel account and take a closer look. As I have said before, we are covering the events in Kings and Chronicles chronologically, since they repeat so much of the same material. So, when we finish the two books of Kings, we also will have covered the two books of Chronicles.

Now Jehoshaphat is the son of Judah’s King Asa, who had followed the Lord and urged his people to do the same. Asa’s reign, however, was plagued by conflict with Israel to the north. And when his son comes to the throne, we’re told in verse 1 of 2 Chronicles chapter 17 that he “strengthened himself against Israel,” fortifying Judah’s cities and stationing troops throughout the land.

Jehoshaphat is given a glowing commendation here in verses 3-4:

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier 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 practices of Israel.

Verse 6 says, “Furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.” Those were the wooden poles representing the mistress of Baal, usually set up right next to an altar to Baal.

Jehoshaphat also sent some of his officials, along with Levites and priests, throughout the land to teach the people God’s law. God’s people could not ask for a better king. Under his rule, Judah will enjoy peace and prosperity, as we see in verses 10 and 11, as well as a strong army.

But when everything seems to be going so well, right here in chapter 18 and verse 1 we read, “He made a marriage alliance with Ahab.” He arranged to have his son marry Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. Why in the world would he do that?  Now his son’s mother-in-law is Jezebel, and that can’t be good.

No doubt, King Jehoshaphat saw strategic advantages to this alliance. He was motivated primarily by political desires.

This decision almost cost Jehoshaphat his life when he went to war in support of King Ahab against the Syrians. Chapter 18 recounts this episode, which we have already covered in 1 Kings 22.

Now 2 Chronicles 19 begins with a prophet named Jehu. He shows up and rebukes King Jehoshaphat after his return from battle against the Syrians. Remember, this is the battle in which King Ahab is killed.

The prophet Jehu says to Jehoshaphat:

“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.” (verses 2-3)

This pretty much sums up Jehoshaphat’s reign. He sought the Lord, he had a godly walk, but he also made some unwise decisions that were driven by political motives.

This rebuke must have moved Jehoshaphat to institute a second round of reforms. We read in verse 4, “He went out again among the people . . . and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

He also appoints judges throughout the land and tells them in verse 6, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment.” Likewise, he appoints others to serve as judges in Jerusalem, perhaps as a higher court. His charge to them is, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart” (verse 9).

When I was asked to speak at the installment of the chief justice of the supreme court here in my home state, he asked me to speak from this text. It was his life verse. He wanted to be one of these godly judges who did what was right, judging not so much in the sight of man but in the sight of God. And he certainly did.

Chapter 20 of 2 Chronicles further highlights the faith of King Jehoshaphat, which is suddenly challenged by a military threat. Verse 1 tells us that the Moabites, Ammonites, and some tribes called the Meunites come up out of Edom to do battle against him. Judah is vastly outnumbered. 

Jehoshaphat proclaims a time of fasting and praying. He calls the people to assemble in the courtyard of the temple. There, the king stands and prays to the Lord before all the people. Listen to what he prays beginning in verse 6:

“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? . . . And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 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.” (verses 6-7, 10-12)

Wow, what a prayer! Have you ever prayed that? I’m sure you have if you know the Lord: “I don’t know what to do, Lord, but my eyes are on you.”

A prophet of God responds to Jehoshaphat’s prayer:

“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 Lordon your behalf.’” (verses 15, 17)

Jehoshaphat acts in faith and the next day goes out with his army. Interestingly, verse 21 informs us that he sends the Levites out ahead of them singing praise to the Lord.

How is that for a military strategy? Just send out the choir first, and then watch what God does. Well, here is what God does: He confuses this massive army, and they end up fighting and destroying each other.

King Jehoshaphat is rightly commended by Scripture as a godly man. He was a man of great faith, whose desire was to follow the Lord and lead others to do the same. At the same time, he allowed political pressure to drive him to make some unwise and compromising decisions.

So, he should become for us both a warning to stay alert, recognizing that Satan’s temptations come in all shapes and sizes. But he also serves to encourage us; for even when we fail the Lord, even when we make unwise decisions, God in His grace continues to forgive us and allow us to walk with Him and serve Him.