The "Good Things" Found In Jehosphaphat
By sis Sophia Tay
The book of 2 Chronicles, chapters 17 to 20, records the life of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Earlier in his life, Jehoshaphat made decisions with God in mind. He influenced his people for good, but was also influenced by Ahab, king of Israel. Nevertheless, God said of Jehoshaphat that “good things are found in you”. As we examine his life, we can see that his love of God’s laws and willingness to turn to God kept him grounded through various situations.
In 2 Chron 17, we read that when Jehoshaphat first succeeded his father as king of Judah, he “strengthened himself against Israel” (17:1). He did this by sending soldiers to guard and defend all the cities in Judah (17:2). This could be because there was conflict between Israel and Judah during his father’s time. More importantly, he was likely worried about Israel’s influence because of its idol worship:
3 Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel.
“His heart took delight in the ways of the Lord” (17:6). He removed “the high places [worship sites with altars, shrines, etc] and wooden images”. He also emphasised the teaching of God’s laws nationwide: he sent leaders, Levites and priests who “had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people” (17:6-9). This does not sound like an easy feat. In chapter 20, when Judah was under attack, the people of Judah “gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (20:4). That would have been a sight to behold.
Jehoshaphat was very blessed by God. His kingdom was peaceful, and the surrounding nations gave tribute to him (17:10-14). However, he ended up making a marriage alliance with Ahab in the next chapter. Ahab was the opposite of Jehoshaphat. While alliances can be beneficial in times of war or invasion, it is surprising that Jehoshaphat would put all of his good work at risk by befriending Ahab. At the very least, the religious climate in his kingdom would be affected.
As Jehoshaphat and Ahab became closer, Jehoshaphat started to leave God out of his decisions. He visited Ahab in Samaria, was treated to a feast, and was persuaded to join forces with Ahab to attack a place called Ramoth Gilead without any reason (18:1-2). Jehoshaphat first agreed to help in the war, but then decided to seek God’s advice:
“I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will be with you in the war.” 4 Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the Lord today.”
These are just two short verses, but I found them striking because they reveal a Jehoshaphat very unlike the person we read about earlier, a king who tried hard to differentiate his people from the idolatry around them and protect them from war. However, in this conversation, he showed that he still remembered God. Suspicious of Ahab’s 400 false prophets who claimed that God would grant the kings victory, he insisted, “Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?” (18:6). He wanted a prophet who spoke for God. As the true prophet, Micaiah, prophesied, Ahab met with disaster. The opposing side wanted to target the king of Israel and mistakenly pursued Jehoshaphat who was dressed in royal robes. With God’s merciful help, Jehoshaphat narrowly escaped death and was warned by Jehu the prophet:
Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.” (19:2-3)
Evidently, Jehoshaphat took these words seriously, as seen in him leading all his people to rely on God in chapter 20.
The above events (chapters 17 to 20) show that although he sometimes forgot to factor God into his decisions or rely on God, he always bounced back. From the start, God was involved in his decisions for the people of Judah. When he faltered, the righteous leaders and prophets around him gave him godly advice and kept his heart set on seeking God. Fundamentally, he had a willing attitude and loved God’s laws. We can learn from Jehoshaphat to be mindful of the things that can sway us, and surround ourselves with the influences that help maintain our focus on God, so that regardless of the situation we are in, God can say to us, “good things are found in you”.