18. To Jehoshaphat

“God turned up” Meditations: 18 :  To Jehoshaphat

2 Chron 20:14,15 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel …Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: `Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Perhaps now that we have done a number of these mediations in God ‘turning up’, it is worth noting the different ways. In the earlier ones we found God coming personally to individuals and speaking directly into them. Sometimes He came in the form of an angel or some other divine figure. But then as Israel developed, more and more it came about that He ‘turned up’ when His Holy Spirit came upon someone and released a prophetic word in and through them.

Jehoshaphat was a rather mixed up king. We read of him: The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.” (2 Chron 17:3) The crucial words are ‘early years’ indicating that he started out well but became mixed up. In his early years he made sure the word of God was taught throughout Judah and the Lord blessed him, but therein came the stumbling block it seems. “Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage.” (2 Chron 18:1)  Now that was a bad move because Ahab was an ungodly and unrighteous king. As a result of this Jehoshaphat was drawn in to fighting alongside Ahab. A young prophet by the name of Micaiah prophesied Ahab’s death in battle and Ahab tried to avoid it by making Jehoshaphat stand out and he himself would be in disguise. In desperation in the midst of the battle Jehoshaphat cried out and the Lord saved him (2 Chron 18:31) but a random arrow struck Ahab and he died. There are many lessons here to ponder upon.

When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem he was rebuked by Jehu the seer. Jehoshaphat continued in turning Judah back to the Lord (2 Chron 19:4-11). When a large army came from Edom against Jehoshaphat he and all the people sought the Lord ( 2 Chron 20:3,4). It was after he had prayed for help publicly that the Lord turns up and the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel and brings this word of strong encouragement. The word goes on to say that all they need do is turn up and the Lord will do the fighting. They respond with faith and worship and praise the Lord. In the event the enemy turned on themselves so that when Jehoshaphat’s army turned up they just found dead bodies.

What is sad is that in the latter part of his reign Jehoshaphat made another alliance with Israel, this time with Ahaziah, another bad king. As a result of this a fleet of Jehoshaphat’s ships were utterly destroyed. It was not a very glorious end to his reign. It seems, for whatever reason, Jehoshaphat had this tendency to make friends with bad people and incurred the displeasure of the Lord.

That perhaps, is what makes this incident that we have just considered all the more remarkable. In the middle of his reign and the end of his reign he aligned himself with bad kings of Israel. His heart had been to serve the Lord and lead Judah before the Lord, yet he seemed to have this weak point, this inability to discern wrong in the northern kings and to put his trust in them. But despite this – and the Lord knew it would happen again in the future – the Lord blessed him with His presence and His victory. This is the Lord who comes and gives us every chance to succeed. He only has to see glimmerings of a good heart in us, it seems, and He is there encouraging us.

We may feel weak and we may feel frail but all the Lord looks for is a heart that is inclined towards him. Yes, here is Jehoshaphat who has this tendency to lean upon other kings instead of the Lord, but the one time he does lean on the Lord, the Lord is there for him!   If it had been us, we’d probably have been sulky about his weak friendship and tendency to make friends with those who are our enemies, and so refuse to be there for him, but that’s not the Lord’s way. The Lord’s grace looks for any and every opportunity to draw the hearts of people to Himself. Even though we have been weak previously, and He sees we will be weak again later, as soon as He sees us turn even for a moment to Him, He’s there for us! That is grace! We can never say He didn’t give us every chance.

If He does give you another chance, don’t squander it. Be blessed by it, learn from it, and stick with Him. Don’t drift again into your old ways but instead hold fast to the Lord all the years of your remaining life. That is what the Lord longs for. Let’s not disappoint Him!