Text: 2 Chronicles 18-20
Observe: There is a lot going on in Chapter 18. We see wicked King Ahab of Israel ask the good King Jehoshaphat of Judah to join him in going to war to recover Ramoth Gilead in the tribe of Gad from the Arameans. King Jehoshaphat agrees to the alliance, but insists that they first seek the Lord’s will about whether they should or shouldn’t go to war. So Ahab calls together all the prophets in Israel and asks them what they should do. Being false prophets in a wicked kingdom, they all respond by telling the king what he wants to hear, saying God would give them victory in the battle. Then, Jehoshaphat asks if there are any other prophets who haven’t been heard and Ahab calls on Micaiah, whom he hates because he always prophecies against him and his wicked ways.
The messenger sent to get Micaiah tells him to say exactly the same thing the other false prophets have said, so in a facetious manner, that’s what he does. However, the king insists that he relay exactly what the Lord says, and Micaiah then describes a vision wherein the Lord sends a deceiving spirit to speak through all the false prophets in order to bring about the death of Ahab in a losing battle. Furious with Micaiah’s true prophecy of the battle’s outcome, Ahab throws him into prison until he returns safely.
As they prepare for battle, Ahab tells Jehoshaphat to wear his royal armour while Ahab goes into the battle dressed as a common soldier. At first, the Arameans try to engage Jehoshaphat thinking that he was the king of Israel, but when he calls out to God for help, they break of their pursuit, and so he is saved. Meanwhile, a random arrow fired by the Arameans strikes Ahab and he is mortally wounded. He dies by sunset that day, fulfilling Micaiah’s prophecy.
In Chapter 19, King Jehoshaphat returns safely to Judah where he is immediately rebuked by the prophet Jehu, who asks him why he would align himself with evil-doers, meaning King Ahab, who go against the Lord’s will. For that, the Lord was angry with him. However, Jehu does see some of the good in him, as he removed the Asherah poles from his kingdom, and had set his heart on doing the Lord’s will. To make amends for his sins, Jehoshaphat then goes about the land turning the people back to worshiping the Lord. He also assigns judges in each of the cities to administer justice to the people, and he assigned Levites to administer the laws of the Lord in Jerusalem. They were all to administer real justice in the name of the Lord.
In Chapter 20, the Moabites and Ammonites come against Judah with an overwhelming force, and King Jehoshaphat is alarmed. In fact, he declares a fast for the whole kingdom, and comes before the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem to seek His help. All the people of Judah prayed with him. In response to these prayers, the Spirit of the Lord came to Jehaziel, a Levite, and he stood up in the assembly. He told the king and all the people to not be afraid, that the coming battle was not theirs, but the Lord’s. He told them to march out, take up their battle stations, and then hold fast while they see the deliverance of the Lord. King Jehoshaphat led his army out to the battlefield and encouraged his soldiers to have faith in God. As they began to sing praises to God, the Lord set each of the enemy armies against each other so that they destroyed one another. When the army of Judah arrived on the scene, all they found were the dead soldiers, with no survivors. There was so much plunder that it took three days to carry it all away. On the fourth day, they gathered and praised the Lord for His deliverance. From that day on, Judah was at peace because the other nations feared their God.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last word on King Jehoshaphat. In his final years, he made an alliance with another wicked king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, Ahaziah. They were to jointly build a fleet of trading ships, but because of King Azahiah’s wickedness, God destroyed the entire fleet before they could set sail.
Interpret: King Jehoshaphat is generally regarded as being a good and just king of Judah because he had set his heart on the Lord. But, being human, he also made some bad decisions. He appears to have been deceived by King Ahab into thinking that an alliance with him would be beneficial to Judah, while Ahab may have tried to have him killed in the battle with the Arameans by dressing as the obvious king while Ahab went in disguise. When Jehoshaphat returned to Judah, he tried to make amends by encouraging the people to return to their worship of the Lord, their God, which was good thing, but he neglected to remove the Asherah poles from the high places in the land. And nearing the end of his reign, he again made another alliance with another wicked Israelite king which ended in disaster. All these bad choices diminished whatever good he was able to accomplish as king, and led to the establishment another unjust king ruling after him.
Application: All our decisions, good or bad, have consequences. Sometimes we make the right decision by focusing on the things we know God wants for us, and things turn out well. Other times, we forget to seek Him and are persuaded by our own vanity or by deceitful smooth talkers to do what seems expedient in the moment, or we listen to the words that we want to hear instead of what we need to hear, and it often leads to our own downfall. We might even try to elude punishment for our misdeeds, but as Ahab discovered, there is no way to hide from God.
But our God is a faithful God, and when we call out to Him for guidance, He will provide it. When we call out to Him for help, He will provide a way. When we follow His will, He provides a life that is more meaningful and fulfilling than anything we can hope to accomplish on our own.
Questions: Have you ever looked back on some of your decisions and realized how badly things went because you did things your way instead of God’s way? Do you regularly come before God in prayer and ask His guidance for living your life according to His will for you? How often do you come before the Lord in thankfulness for His great mercies?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness to us, even when we make bad choices. We thank you for the reminders of what happens when we follow your will or when we rebel and follow our own wisdom. Help us not be led astray by vanity or false and deceitful advice. Give us hearts and minds to follow you alone in all our decisions. This we pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Song: Thy Word: Amy Grant
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.