Be Careful in Your Choice of Companions: Lessons From King Jehoshaphat

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
How distinct and how serious is the difference between what is said of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chron. 17, and 18. In the one it is said that he "strengthened himself against Israel," and in the beginning of the other it is stated that he "joined affinity with Ahab." This signifies a fall, and is not without its warning to ourselves. In chapter 20 Jehoshaphat is assailed by enemies. "The children of Ammon, and with them other besides the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle." The king is cast upon God -his language breathes a true spirit of dependence and real humility. He prays thus, "0 our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee."
All this teaches us that we have greater reason to fear Satan as a flatterer than as an open foe. The serpent is subtle, the lion ferocious, and Satan is likened to both. He deceives, and he also seeks to devour. King Ahab did not come against Jehoshaphat as an enemy, but rather as a friend. It is here that we need to be on our guard.
Jehoshaphat was by no means comfortable, however liberal he was in offering to be one with Ahab in retaking Ramoth-Gilead. Who had ordered Ahab to undertake such a service? He was like certain prophets of whom we read, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied." Jer. 2:3: 2 1. Jehoshaphat felt this.
Moreover, Ahab was for madly rushing into battle with the Syrians without asking counsel of God or of any one else. Now we come to a solemn matter for consideration. When men have made up their minds to do evil, like Ahab who sold himself to do evil, God in His judgment may allow them to be deceived. Our Lord said in His day, "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." Blindness from God is terrible indeed. Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel had four hundred prophets—they were numerous, but false—and the Lord permitted an evil spirit to deceive them all. "There came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the LORD said,... go out, and do even so. Chapter 18:20, 21.
One might have supposed that what was said by so many must be true, but this shows how we may be misled by the devil with a cloak of sanctity. The four hundred prophets prophesied before the deluded king and Said, "Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand." This is, as I have said, very serious, and shows the need of prayer and acquaintance with the mind of God as revealed in His holy Word.
Poor Jehoshaphat! One cannot hut pity him; he was in a false position from which it was not easy to escape. He was like the poor fly that gets entangled in the web of the spider. "Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?" said Jehoshaphat. Yes, there was one more—Micaiah, true, but persecuted. Ahab says, "But I hate him." He was hated because he was faithful. Wicked men and women do not like to he told the truth; they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. But soon it was shown that this solitary and persecuted prophet was right, and the four hundred fawning prophets were wrong. Ahab went to battle (and Jehoshaphat with him), but not to prosper, as the false men had said he would. God did not deliver Ramoth-Gilead into his hand. On the contrary, a man drawing a bow at a venture sent the arrow unerringly through an opening in Ahab's armor and fatally wounded him, "and about the time of the sun going down he died."
Poor, but truehearted, Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord; he knew where to look in danger and distress.
We cannot conceive Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, saying to another king outside of Israel, "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will he with thee," etc., as he so blandly replied to Ahab. No! it is an easier matter to discern evil in its open form and character in the world, and thus unhesitatingly to shun it.
Was not Ahab a king of Israel? Could he not say, "Know ye not that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still?" Is it not our common enemy who has taken Ramoth-Gilead from us? It is here, we repeat, where discernment is needed, for while evil in its true and undisguised character is avoided, evil in its untrue character, so to speak, is often not avoided. Albeit Ahab was king of Israel, the people of the Lord, yet for all that he was a very wicked man indeed. It is recorded of him that he "did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him." 1 Kings 16:30, 3130And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. 31And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. (1 Kings 16:30‑31).
Who would suggest that it was a proper thing for Jehoshaphat to have fellowship with such a wicked man even if he were king of Israel, the favored people of God? Could anything be more shocking than to go on with wickedness because pursued by those who bear the Lord's name? Far be the thought!
But here it is, alas, that we are so often deceived. Look for a moment at another striking example of how the world in its open form was avoided, while in its disguised form it was fallen into.
The "man of God" (1 Kings 13) was proof against the offers of reward and refreshment of "Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin," but proved vulnerable to the deception of the "old prophet in Bethel." Doubtless if Jeroboam had declared to the man of God that "an angel spake" to him, he would not have been believed; but he believed the prophet, and he an old one, and believed him to his ruin too. This is a serious matter, yet we need not be discouraged or afraid. If -
"Sin, Satan, death appear,
To harass and appall,
Yet since the gracious
Lord is near,
Backward they go and fall.
Before, behind, around,
They set their fierce array,
To fight and force me from the ground
Along life's narrow way.
I meet them face to face,
Through Jesus' conquest blest,
March in the triumph of His grace
Right onward to my rest."
No less a number than four hundred prophets had assured Ahab and Jehoshaphat that it was not only the Lord's mind that they should go to Ramoth-Gilead, but that He would deliver it into the king's hand; yet it is not to be wondered at that Jehoshaphat was dissatisfied with their flippant statement, for had not the Lord permitted a lying spirit to put the words into the mouths of these flattering prophets? if it be asked why the Lord put this lying spirit into their mouths, it must be answered by saying that it was done judicially, and has an analogy to the terrible statement respecting Ephraim, who was "joined to idols," and meant to go on with them at all costs. "Let him alone." Hos. 4:1717Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. (Hosea 4:17). God could not go with Ahab in his undertakings, however commendable they might appear to be, even if Jehoshaphat would accompany him.
One is led to wonder why King Jehoshaphat did not use means to extricate himself from the mess he got himself into. Ah, herein lies a great cause for consideration, which is that the result of an evil alliance and position is to blind the eyes, and to enervate the spiritual energies of the soul. Look what a dragging it took to get Lot out of Sodom! Something of the seductive power of sin must have been known by the poet when he states-
"Vice is a monster of such hideous mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
But seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.-
The bell in the tower which when struck alarmed the young birds, alarms them now no longer; they build their nest there; they are used to it. Oh, may our Lord preserve the reader and writer from becoming accustomed to evil! It would appear that there was an abundance of false prophets in Ahab's time, although, not long before, the faithful Elijah had caused four hundred and fifty to be put to death (1 Kings 18:4040And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (1 Kings 18:40)).
Besides these there were four hundred more "prophets of the groves" which did eat at Jezebel's table. It is ever so—more false than true. Four hundred false prophets to one. It is a striking disparity, and tells its own story. Yet, blessed be God! He has His precious piece of gold where there is so much brass. His faithful Micaiah, as distinguished from the faithless, flattering, time-serving four hundred. Micaiah, of course, must suffer, but he has God with him, is in communion with Him, and it has been asked, "What can compensate for the loss of communion with God?" It might be said that the four hundred prophets all spoke the same thing; they were unanimous. They were, but it was a unanimity with Satan as its author. Their counsel was taken, but it was not the counsel God would have been pleased to give. "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of Me." Isa. 30:11Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: (Isaiah 30:1).
Doubtless it often proves trying to be singular, but if faithfulness to God is the cause of being singular, may we have grace singular to be.
Through the mercy of the Lord, it is written of Jehoshaphat that he "returned to his house in peace," although not without rebuke, for "the son of Hanani... went out to meet him" and put this important question to the erring, if repentant, king, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD." 2 Chron. 19:22And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord. (2 Chronicles 19:2).
God had been very gracious to Jehoshaphat. He always is gracious; while rebuking the king, He did not forget that there were "good things" found in him. God in His holiness judges wrongdoing, but does not overlook any good in His people. It is said, "and by Him actions are weighed." 1 Sam. 2:33Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3). God in His grace for gives, but then His ways in government must continue all the same.
Our readers may have heard of the little boy whose conduct so displeased his father that he said he would drive a nail into a post in the garden every time the child was naughty in the future. A considerable number of nails were driven in, alas! After a time, however, a difference became apparent in the boy's behavior; there were kind acts instead of cruel ones, obedient ways instead of disobedient ones, and the father promised to take a nail out of the post every time that he observed these altered and better actions.
Accordingly, one bright day the happy parent took his boy into the garden to see the last nail taken out of that tell-tale post. The boy was not so pleased as his father expected, and being questioned, he answered, "Father, you have taken away the nails, but you have left all the holes behind!" If the withdrawing of the nails told of the father's forgiveness, the holes showed where the nails had been. So was it with Jehoshaphat; he "returned to his house in peace," but wrath was upon him from before the Lord for being unequally yoked with the ungodly.
When King David exclaimed, "I have sinned," the confession was met with, "The LORD also hath put away thy sin" (2 Sam. 12:1; 31And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. (2 Samuel 12:1)), but we know if grace puts away the sin, government must decree that the sword shall not depart from the house of David. Repentance to be effectual must be heartfelt, yes, and conscience-felt too; and then the fruits of repentance will be seen. Jehoshaphat was now not only desirous of being right with God Himself, but we observe that he was desirous of bringing back those he had led astray, for had he not said to ungodly Ahab, "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war"? But now "he went out again through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the LORD God of their fathers. And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you: take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts." 2 Chron. 19:4-74And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers. 5And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city, 6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. 7Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. (2 Chronicles 19:4‑7). This sounds wholesome. Jehoshaphat has learned a deep lesson; he now knows what a valuable thing is the fear of the Lord, and how serious a thing it is to act without the sense of that fear. We fear that a good deal of so-called repentance is very superficial and shallow. It is refreshing to read what the Apostle Paul says of the Corinthians: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation,... In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." 2 Cor. 7:1111For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Have any of our readers left their first love, or are they in danger of leaving it, or are they unequally yoked with unbelievers? Cry to the Lord, for only He can deliver. Jehoshaphat might have used on his restoration, and after having nearly lost his life through backsliding, the words of the Psalm: "Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder." Psa. 107:13, 1413Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. (Psalm 107:13‑14).
"Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder." Psalm 107:15, 1615Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. (Psalm 107:15‑16).