Thumbs up for Jehoshaphat
1Kings 22: No detours, no dead ends — pleasing God with his life.
We first meet Jehoshaphat when he insists that a prophet of God be called in when a decision to go to war is being made. That alone speaks well of this King of Judah. Now we find his short biography in the closing paragraphs of 1 Kings. His father was King Asa who also receives high marks and now we are told that Jehoshaphat is a “chip off the old block.” He seeks to please God in all his life and he refuses to drift off the road the Lord laid out for him. When Jehoshaphat insists to Ahab that the Lord be consulted before he’ll commit to war, he’s simply making decisions in the way he always makes decisions. When I read that Jehoshaphat pleased God because he was single minded in obeying the Lord and when I see the example of this in the meeting with Ahab I’m challenged to listen carefully to, and obey fully, the guidance the Lord gives me in my life.
Take Away: Generally speaking, what a person does when the chips are down is a continuation of what they’re in the habit of doing in the first place.
He nailed it
1Kings 22: As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say.
I’m drawn to little known people in the Bible who only make one appearance but who make a good showing in their one shot on the stage of history. The prophet Micaiah is one such man. King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah are discussing the possibility of joining forces in a campaign against Aram. Jehoshaphat wants to hear from God on this issue and Ahab, anticipating that, has a crew of hired prophets standing by. They tell the two kings that they’ll be wildly successful if they go to war against Aram. However, Jehoshaphat’s unconvinced. His question reflects both his spirituality and his lack of confidence in the hired prophets of Ahab. He asks for a real prophet of God. It’s here that we meet Micaiah, unknown to us, but apparently well known to Ahab. The King of Israel says that there’s one guy who can speak for God, but he hates him because he never says anything good about him! Upon Jehoshaphat’s insistence Micaiah is called. As he comes, he’s warned that anything negative he might say, as some lawman might put it, “will be used against him in a court of law.” Micaiah starts off with pure sarcasm: “sure, go for it, you’ll win a great victory.” It’s so obvious that he’s making fun of the hired prophets that Ahab presses him for the truth. Micaiah gives it to him, right between the eyes! All of his hired prophets are liars and God’s going to use this war to be rid of Ahab once and for all. Our glimpse of Micaiah ends with his being drug out of the presence of the kings while shouting, “If you ever get back in one piece, I’m no prophet of God.” Then he adds that when everything happens just as he said he wants everyone to remember this event. Some people play big roles in the history of God’s work in this world and I thank the Lord for them. Others have just a bit part, but I can’t help but be impressed when they come through with flying colors. Today, I tip my hat to Micaiah, the prophet of God.
Take Away: As a “bit player” I too want to be ready when my moment comes.
The funeral service was poorly attended
2 Chronicles 21: There were no tears shed when he died – it was good riddance!
Jehoshaphat fathers five sons and he leaves them each an inheritance of wealth. Additionally each one is given a fortified city to rule, basically setting them up for life. His oldest son, Jehoram, gets the throne. This could work out as the most successful handoff of power since Solomon took the throne from his father, David. Instead, there’s murder and abandonment of God. This wicked man murders all his brothers and leads his subjects away from God. The Lord, in turn, is disgusted with him. There are rebellions and then a humiliating and destroying illness. After eight years of failure Jehoram is dead. And no one cares. What a pitiful life story. How sobering it is to think that the untimely death of a person is considered a favor of God to those under his influence and authority. What an important reminder to realize it all started when he turned his back on God. Each life journey arrives at key forks in the road. When I arrive at such a place I make a fresh decision concerning the type of person I will be. That decision will impact not only me, but those who are closest to me, and in some cases, even people I’ll never know. Because of the importance of how I handle those big moments in my life, I want to practice for them by dealing with the little stuff in the right way. Little things lead to big things. Big things lead to eternity.
Take Away: We become the people we are by the decisions we make along the way.
God takes my best and makes it better
2 Chronicles 19: And God be with you as you do your best.
Jehoshaphat receives good marks for his leadership of Judah. He’s right on target in how he oversees the legal system of his kingdom. His judicial appointees are charged by the king to take their work seriously, reminding them that ultimately they must give an account of themselves to the Lord. Jehoshaphat gives a similar charge to those given authority over Temple business. They’re to be dependable and honest in all they do. Jehoshaphat’s bottom line to these powerful people is this: “God be with you as you do your best.” One reminder I see in this passage is that God expects me to give my best to the responsibilities that are mine. Positions of authority carry with them an equal portion of accountability. Also, I see that my best is all that I can give. Even when it’s not really good enough I can’t do any better than my best. When I’ve done that, I’ve come to the end of myself and I’ve done all the Lord expects of me. At that point, my best may be seen as acceptable by others or it may be time for me to move on, handing the responsibility over to someone else, but I have no reason to be ashamed when I’ve given all I have to give. Finally, though, there’s good news here. God’s help is promised. When I’ve done all I can do and, frankly, it isn’t enough, rather than coming to the end, I might just come to the beginning; that is, the beginning of God. He delights in taking unlikely people and using them to accomplish great things like killing giants or feeding thousands. It’s pretty cool. I bring my best to the table, as meager as that might be, and then God steps in, lifting me and what I have to offer to dizzying new heights. Rather than ending up humbly handing the keys over to some more capable person, I sometimes find myself amazed at what God has done.
Take Away: The Lord delights in using unlikely people.
Finding good advisers
2 Chronicles 18: I’ll get all the prophets to lie.
Jehoshaphat has no business being in Samaria, much less meeting with its wicked king Ahab. He’s treated to a meal “fit for a king” that’s intended to soften him up a bit. When Ahab thinks the time’s right he suggests an alliance between Israel and Judah against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is hesitant and suggests that they consult the Lord. The result is a pre-arranged prophetic display from some of Ahab’s hand-picked prophets. Jehoshaphat knows what’s going on and asks for a second opinion, this time from a real prophet of God. It’s now that we meet Micaiah. I picture him as a little fireball of a fellow. In fact, his feistiness has already gotten him on the bad side of Ahab. Micaiah says this campaign will end in massive defeat, especially for Israel. When pressed on the matter he gives an imaginary scenario in which the Lord calls a meeting of his angelic advisors. The Lord wants their ideas of how to get Ahab to make the foolish decision to attack Ramoth Gilead. Finally, one angel says it won’t be hard to do; he’ll just get all of Ahab’s paid prophets to lie to him! As you can imagine all these so called prophets don’t take kindly to being called liars and pandemonium breaks out. Ahab has Micaiah thrown into jail and proceeds with his battle plans. It’s his last battle. It’s really not hard to find people who agree with us. Some folks really like us and think we can do about anything; they tell us to go for it. Others want to score points with us, or are afraid of us, or really don’t care one way or another. The trick is to find people who know what they’re talking about and who will risk telling us the truth, even if it’s not what we want to hear. One person who will do that is worth a dozen of the other sort.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for good friends who tell us the truth in love.
Over the long run
2 Chronicles 17: He was a seeker and follower of the God of his father and was obedient to him.
Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, comes to the throne of Judah and he does a pretty good job, both militarily and spiritually. One thing he does that’s interesting is that he puts together a team to go out and conduct what might be called revival meetings across his country. These men teach the people how they’re to live as a people of God. The king’s approach is successful both at home and, so some extent in the nations surrounding tiny Judah. The peoples of those nations develop a healthy respect for “God’s people” in Judah. Not only are they hesitant to make trouble with these neighbors, but they want to be on the good side of them and their God. Amazingly, the Philistines, their enemies across the centuries, come with gifts for Jehoshaphat. His reign looks like a smaller version of that of his ancestor Solomon. I think it’s neat to be able to sit here in the comfort of my favorite chair literally thousands of years after these events and see how Jehoshapaht’s decision to seek, follow, and obey the Lord impacts his life as the years pass. Even as ripples spread from a stone tossed into a pond so do blessings spread through a life when a person decides to seek, follow, and obey the Lord.
Take Away: The impact of a decision for the Lord reaches farther than we ever imagine.