19. Lessons to be Learned

Struggles of Israel Meditations: 19. Lessons to be Learned

2 Chron 17:3-6  “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honour. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.”

Continuing: In the previous study we followed the first three southern kings after Solomon: Rehoboam (bad), Abijah (better) and Asa (better still). We now move on to consider Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah and Joash.

Jehoshaphat: The start is good as we see from the starter verses above. Because of this fear fell on the surrounding lands who left him alone and even the Philistines brought him gifts (2 Chron 17:10,11). Unfortunately he allied himself to the northern ungodly king, Ahab, by marriage (18:1) revealing his lack of discernment. Possibly it might have been a good intent to bring the two nations together for when Ahab asks him to come with him and fight against Ramoth Gilead in Aram, he does. Rather naively he asks is there guidance from the Lord and when Ahab brings out his 400 false prophets, Jehoshaphat at least has the discernment to know they are not of God. To cut a long story short Ahab is killed and Jehoshaphat narrowly misses being killed (see 17:4-34). When he returns to Jerusalem he is rebuked for his activities (18:1-3) After this (because of it?) a vast army of Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites came against him (20:1,2) and he and the nation respond well: “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” (20:3,4) the Lord brings an encouraging prophecy (20:15-17) and the Lord turns the enemy on one another (20:23) so they don’t even have to fight them. It is a good time (20:27-30) Later, showing he still has this lack of discernment, he made an alliance with Ahaziah of Israel to build ships but was rebuked by the Lord and all the ships were wrecked. (20:35-37).

Jehoram: When Jehoshaphat eventually dies, Jehoram his son takes over and sadly we find, “He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (2 Chron 21:6) During his reign Edom rebelled against them (21:8-10) as did Libnah (on the edge of Philistine country) “because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors.” (v.10) Elijah sent him a letter condemning him (v.12-15) and “The Lord aroused against Jehoram the hostility of the Philistines and of the Arabs who lived near the Cushites.” (v.16) and Elijah’s words against him is fulfilled and he dies a horrible death (v.18,19) and we read, “He passed away, to no one’s regret.” (v.20) What an obituary!

Ahaziah: Jehoram’s youngest son, Ahaziah, is chosen as king as his brothers had already been killed (2 Chron 22:1) He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done,” (v.3,4) and so “God brought about Ahaziah’s downfall.” (v.7) by Jehu from the north who was conducting a purge after God’s word to him (see v.7-9). This was after he had gone with Joram of the north to fight against Aram (v.5,6) and it was as a result of this that he was in the north and was killed by Jehu.

Joash: Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah who was evil, then sought to wipe out the rest of the royal family, presumably so she could reign herself, but Ahaziah’s young son Joash was hidden away and protected until he was older and then an uprising brought him to the throne and had Athaliah killed (see 2 Chron 23:1-21).  “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chron 24:2) Jehoiada had been the moving godly force that had protected Joash and as long as he lived Joash followed the Lord and repaired the temple. (v.4-14) Then we see “After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” (2 Chron 24:17-20) Rejecting this word they stoned Zechariah to death but, “At the turn of the year, the army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people. They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus. Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the Lord delivered into their hands a much larger army. Because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, judgment was executed on Joash.” (2 Chron 24:23,24) Joash was wounded and his officials finished the job off and killed him.

Summary: In these four kings we have seen:

  1. Jehoshaphat: His heart towards God was good but failed to discern unrighteousness in Ahab and later Ahaziah. When the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites came against him, he called on the Lord and the Lord delivered him and destroyed the enemy.
  2. Jehoram: A bad king so Edom and Libnah rebelled against him, he was rebuked by Elijah, attacked by Philistines and Arabs, and died a horrible death.
  3. Ahaziah: Another bad king, unwisely fought alongside the north against Aram and was killed by Jehu.
  4. Joash: Good as long as his priestly mentor lived but turned from the Lord, rejected God’s word of rebuke, was attacked and injured by Aram and killed by his officials.

And So: What a mixture. Jehoshaphat with a heart towards God but lacking discernment of evil. Jehoram, bad, disciplined by enemies from the south, dying a horrible death as judgment. Ahaziah, bad, killed for being in the wrong place. Joash, good as long as he had a godly mentor but soon fell off the rails after the death of that mentor, disciplined by Aram and wounded, killed by his officials.

Note:

  • the disciplinary enemies: Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites with Jehoshaphat, Philistines and Arabs with Jehoram, the usurper king of Israel with Ahaziah, Aram with Joash,
  • the input from the Lord: who helped Jehoshaphat when he called on Him, a prophetic letter from Elijah for Jehoram, encouraged Jehu that resulted in Ahaziah’s death, gave prophetic rebuke to Joash.

With these four kings the mix of physical and spiritual struggles appears at its height. None of them come out with a clean sheet (Jehoshaphat best of all) and with God’s word coming again and again they all should have done well but, in rejecting God’s words, the latter three all fell and died ignominiously.

The lessons remain clear: there is always an interaction between the spiritual and the physical and we ignore this at our peril.

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