King Jehoshaphat: Be Careful in Your Choice of Companions

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Our readers will know that Jehoshaphat was king of Judah at the same time that "Ahab the son of Omri" was king over Israel. While David and Solomon reigned, "Israel" included the twelve tribes. After Solomon's death, the kingdom came to Rehoboam his son.
The young reader will remember that "all the congregation" of Israel came to Rehoboam, and complained that Solomon had made their "yoke grievous"; they desired a gentler rule. So the "old men" of experience were consulted; the young men also were asked to give counsel. The advice of the aged men was to act tenderly and with consideration toward the people, adding, that if the king acted in this manner, "they will be thy servants forever" (1 Kings 12:77And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. (1 Kings 12:7)). This advice was good. On the other hand, the young men advised Rehoboam to say to the people, "My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions," a cruel instrument of punishment, a long and heavy scourge armed with numerous knots and with spikes of metal. As people grow older, they generally become kinder and more thoughtful for the sorrows and afflictions of others.
"Speak gently, it is better far To rule by love than fear"; and we have read that "you do not alienate men by allowing them opportunities of improving their condition, and a slack chain is less easily broken than a tight one." Well, Rehoboam drew the chain so tightly that it broke. In other words, the people revolted. "So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day." It was only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin that clung to Rehoboam; the ten tribes, now called "all Israel," made "Jeroboam the son of Nebat" their king.
Accordingly, from this time, we read of kings of Israel and of kings of Judah, and of these kings on both sides, some were good and others were bad.
Among the kings of Israel, you will remember Ahab the son of Omri, of whom it is said that he "did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him." While of Jehoshaphat, who reigned over Judah at the same time, it is written, "And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the first ways of his father David." As Israel was going on badly, Jehoshaphat strengthened himself against them. In those days riches were a sign of the favor of the Lord, but it does not follow that those so favored made a right use of the riches with which they were entrusted. It is to be noticed that Jehoshaphat's having "riches and honor in abundance" is connected with his joining "affinity with Ahab"; and we shall see what trouble this affinity o r fellowship brought him into, though he did not get into trouble all at once-people seldom do. "After certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria." 2 Chron. 1:8: 2.
In the fable of the owl and the moth, the latter inquired of the owl, how she should act with regard to the candle which had singed her wings; the owl counseled the moth to keep away from the candle, saying, Don't so much as look at the smoke. You scarcely know where the first wrong step in bad company will lead you, but certainly it will lead you away from God and from happiness. Ahab was evidently very much pleased to get Jehoshaphat down to Samaria; and, as people say, he made a good deal of him. Young reader, be careful of those who would make a good deal of you; for when this is the case, we are inclined to make a great deal of ourselves; and Satan then often entraps those who are filled with self-importance. Would you n o t rather be like the violet than the showy poppy? It was easy enough for poor Jehoshaphat to be persuaded to go up with wicked King Ahab to Ramothgilead, after being feasted and feted. And now, he who had strengthened himself against Israel and refused to walk in their godless ways, says to one of their wickedest kings, "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war."
This was just what Ahab wanted. Ahab may have said something like this: Now you are what I call large-minded and liberal, not like those narrow-minded people who will not join with one in well-intentioned schemes. Yet, however Ahab might flatter, Jehoshaphat was far from feeling comfortable. He had been in the habit of seeking the Lord's mind before engaging in any enterprise. "Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to-day." It was serious that Jehoshaphat had not done this before he went down to see Ahab. Let us learn to do the right thing at the right time. How many mistakes in life are made because young people do not inquire "at the word of the LORD" first, but perhaps think of it when too late!
How different 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: "O 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 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 is 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. 23:2121I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. (Jeremiah 23:21). Jehoshaphat felt this. Moreover, Ahab was for madly rushing into battle with the Syrians without asking counsel of God or of anyone 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." 2 Chron. 18:20, 2120Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? 21And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so. (2 Chronicles 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 prophesy before the deluded king, and say, "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.
But Jehoshaphat was not satisfied with the four hundred prophets. Poor Jehoshaphat, one cannot but 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 be 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 be 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 s a y, "Know ye not that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still?" Is it not our common enemy who has taken Ramothgilead 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 fallen in with. 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!
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 Ramothgilead, 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 had got himself into. Ah, herein lies a grave 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 stated-
"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."
It would appear that there was an abundance of false prophets in Ahab's time. 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, timeserving 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.
Ahab escapes not, notwithstanding his cleverness in disguising himself, "for a certain man drew a bow at a venture [in his simplicity], and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness:... and about the time of the sun going down he died." 2 Chron. 18:3434And the battle increased that day: howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even: and about the time of the sun going down he died. (2 Chronicles 18:34).
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. 19:2, 32And 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. 3Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God. (2 Chronicles 19:2‑3).
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 forgives, but then His ways in government must continue all the same.
When King David exclaimed, "I have sinned," the confession was met with, "The LORD. hath put away thy sin"; 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 Beer-sheba 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." 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. 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