The life and experiences of Jehoshaphat have much to teach a believer. He was the fourth king of Judah, and reigned for twenty-five years from around 875 to 850 BC. Jehoshaphat, whose name means ‘Jehovah judges’, was a godly man and the Lord was with him, for he ‘walked in the first ways of his father David’, 2 Chron. 17. 3. The trend of his life was to seek the will of God and do it. However, it can be said of Jehoshaphat that he was very human and, like the rest of us, knew ‘ups and downs’ in his spiritual life.
HE FOLLOWED THE WAYS OF GOD
In his early days Jehoshaphat, like his godly father Asa, followed the ways of God. He strengthened Judah’s defences against Israel, took strong measures against idolatry, and it is recorded that ‘his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord’, 2 Chron. 17. 6. Jehoshaphat was rightly concerned with obeying and teaching the word of God, Deut. 17. 18- 20, and sent princes, Levites and priests throughout Judah to teach the people from the ‘book of the law of the Lord’, 2 Chron. 17. 7-9. Jehoshaphat and his people prospered spiritually and materially, and the nations round about were afraid to attack Judah.
HE ALLIED HIMSELF WITH AHAB
It was when he was prosperous that Jehoshaphat’s weaknesses were revealed. We are warned not to be ‘unequally yoked together with unbelievers’, 2 Cor. 6. 14, and the experiences of Jehoshaphat following his political and commercial alliances make salutary reading. He was beguiled by prosperity, pride and flattery and ‘joined affinity with Ahab’, 2 Chron. 18. 1, the idolatrous, wicked king of Israel, 1 Kgs. 16. 33; 21. 25.
Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, married Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, and the results of this union were disastrous, 2 Chron. 21. 5, 6.
In Proverbs chapter 1 verse 10 we are warned ‘if sinners entice thee, consent thou not’. Jehoshaphat ignored this advice and sad consequences followed. He went with Ahab to fight against the Syrians at Ramoth-gilead and would have lost his life in the battle had it not been for the mercy of God, 2 Chron. 18. 31. God chastens us for our spiritual benefit and His glory, Heb. 12. 5-11, and Jehoshaphat profited by the chastening he received through his experience in the battle. He returned to Jerusalem a wiser man, and on his return graciously accepted the rebuke of Jehu, a prophet, who said to him, ‘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. Jehu also said that there were good things found in Jehoshaphat, one of which was that he had, prepared his heart to seek God, 2 Chron. 19. 3.
Following these experiences, Jehoshaphat took measures to bring the people of Judah back to God, and set up a system of judicial administration which was to be carried out in the fear of the Lord, 2 Chron. 19. 4-11.
HE FEARED AND SET HIMSELF TO SEEK THE LORD
Jehoshaphat’s resolution to seek and trust God was soon put to the test, for a confederation of Moabites, Ammonites and others invaded the land. Jehoshaphat feared the attack by this great multitude, but now, in a situation which seemed hopeless, and unlike previously, he did not seek help from any man but ‘set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah’, 2 Chron. 20. 3. The men came with their wives and children to ask the Lord’s help, 2 Chron. 20. 4, 13. Jehoshaphat and his people, having humbled themselves before the Lord, sought His help in prayer, and Jehoshaphat’s prayer which is recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 is very instructive. Prayer honours God. It acknowledges that He is omnipotent and that we are entirely dependent on His unchanging power and love for all the blessings we receive.
HE BEGAN BY PRAYER, CLAIMING DIVINE PROMISE
Jehoshaphat stood in the temple of the Lord, among the people, and prayed to the Lord, v. 5. He prayed to the ‘Lord God of our fathers’, v. 6, the God who had watched over and delivered His people in the past. It is good to look back and meditate on the way God has graciously led, watched over and delivered us in the past. Realizing that ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us’, 1 Sam. 7. 12, gives confidence and strengthens faith for the future. Jehoshaphat knew the omnipotence and sovereignty of God, and acknowledged that God rules ‘over all the kingdoms of the heathen’, v. 6. Those who invaded Judah were under His complete control, and we do well today, in the troubled times in which we live, to remember that all leaders, kings, presidents and dictators are under His control, Dan. 4. 17, 35. Jehoshaphat acknowledged before God that ‘none is able to withstand thee’, v. 6. Jehoshaphat was a man of great faith. He was a righteous man, and the ‘effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’, Jas. 5. 16. He knew that nothing is too difficult for God, Gen. 18. 14, and that with Him all things are possible, Matt. 19. 26.
Jehoshaphat’s faith and trust were in the unchanging, faithful, covenant-keeping God. He prayed to ‘our God’, who had driven out the inhabitants of the land and given it to ‘the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever’, v. 7. Israel, and those of us who have been saved by grace through faith in the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, are in a special covenant relationship with God. We have been redeemed ‘through the blood of the everlasting covenant’, Heb. 13. 20, and God says ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people’, 2 Cor. 6. 16. It is He who watches over us, and every believer can gladly say ‘My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth’, Ps. 121. 2.
HE ACKNOWLEDGED THEIR NEED OF THEIR GOD
God hears and answers the prayers of His believing people and Jehoshaphat believed that God, in response to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kgs. 8. 33-45; 2 Chron. 6. 24-35, would help those who prayed to Him in the temple, vv. 8, 9. Jehoshaphat cast himself and the people entirely on God, asking for His protection against the people who had come to cast them out of their God-given inheritance, vv. 10-12. He acknowledged their entire dependence on God saying, ‘we have no might … neither know we what to do’, and he ended his prayer with the words ‘our eyes are upon thee’, v. 12.
In their weakness, dependence and faith they were looking to God, and Him alone, for deliverance. God’s infinite strength is ‘made perfect in weakness’, 2 Cor. 12. 9, and in the past, nations and individuals have gladly acknowledged that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’, Ps. 46. 1.
The answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer was not long in coming, for the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, a prophet, who told them ‘not to be afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s’, v. 15, and that they would not need to fight but should stand still ‘and see the salvation of the Lord’, v. 17.
HE BELIEVED GOD‘S WORD AND MOVED OUT IN FAITH
Jehoshaphat and all the people responded in faith to this message from God by worshipping and praising Him, vv. 18, 19. The greatness and godliness of Jehoshaphat was seen the following morning when he said to the people, ‘Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established, believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper’, v. 20. These words hold good for us today, if we are to be established in the faith and experience spiritual prosperity.
Singers went out before the army, praising God. They sang and praised in faith and in anticipation of a God-given victory. Victory was theirs without having to fight because their enemies had slain one another, vv. 21-24. Jehoshaphat and the people carried away great spoil, v. 25. They praised God and returned joyfully to Jerusalem, vv. 26-28. Once again Jehoshaphat had peace, for the fear of God came upon the nations when they heard what He had done for His people, vv. 29-30.
HE REMAINS AN ENCOURAGEMENT AS WELL AS A WARNING
Jehoshaphat’s experiences did not cure him of his besetting sin, that is, making alliances with ungodly kings. Nevertheless, the events recorded are for ‘our admonition’ and ‘let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’, 1 Cor. 10. 11-12. Gracious comments on the life of Jehoshaphat appear in 2 Chronicles 20. 32, where it is stated that he did ‘that which was right in the sight of the Lord’, and in 2 Chronicles 22. 9, where we read that he ‘sought the Lord with all his heart’. His prayer showed faith and total reliance on God, as did Peter’s when he was beginning to sink beneath the waves and cried ‘Lord, save me’, Matt. 14. 30. We ‘ought always to pray, and not to faint’, Luke 18. 1, for God graciously answers the prayers of His believing people, as He did in the case of Jabez who, ‘called on the God of Israel. And God granted him that which he requested’.