Jehoshaphat had a phenomenally good start as king of Judah. He sought after the true God and walked in His commandments. His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD, he removed places and items of false worship, and he sent delegates throughout the land to teach people God’s law (2 Chron. 17:6ff). The Lord was with him, and he grew in power and wealth. Then he made a marriage alliance with Ahab, ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Alas, sometimes our bright ideas are really stupid. No doubt, an alliance with the king’s nearest rival seemed very shrewd. Avoid more fighting between the once-united kingdoms of Jacob’s children. Only, Ahab had forsaken Jacob’s God and done more idolatrous evil than even the worst Israelite king before him. When Ahab calls on Jehoshaphat to help him reconquer the city of Ramoth-Gilead, a prophet reveals to both Ahab and Jehoshaphat that the Lord has planned Ahab’s death in the campaign, but the two march off to war together anyway. While Jehoshaphat himself survives, another prophet confronts him on the way home:
Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God. — 2 Chronicles 19:2–3
Imagine with me, for a moment, that you are Jehoshaphat. Having received this rebuke, you set yourself again to the task of calling your people to fear the Lord and obey His commandments. Then, as you are going about the affairs of state, you receive this urgent message: Moab, Ammon, and Edom have conspired together to invade with overwhelming force. Their armies have already crossed the Dead Sea and are now encamped less than fifty miles away.
What do you do now?
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek theLORD. — 2 Chronicles 20:3–4
Good move. In a further moment of clarity, Jehoshaphat stands with the assembly in the house of the Lord and petitions God on the basis of His covenant promises: first, God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land forever (v. 6, cf. Gen. 17:8); and second, His promise to save the people from disaster if they humbled themselves, came to the temple, and cried out to Him (v. 9, cf. 7:13–14).
How committed is the Lord to keeping His promises? Well, His Spirit falls on one of the Levites in the assembly and prophesies, not only that the people should be unafraid, but that they won’t even have to fight the invading army; God will fight for them. In a beautiful display of faith, the people send the temple’s worship leaders out ahead of the army, singing: “Give thanks to Yahweh, for his ḥesed [covenant loyalty, faithful love] is forever” (v. 21). And in response (could we imagine it any other way?), the Lord turns Judah’s invaders against each other until they have utterly obliterated themselves. It takes Jehoshaphat and the people three days to gather all the spoil of the vanquished horde.
What might the Lord do as we come from all our cities to seek Him? If God sent one young musician to kill a giant, and routed a vast coalition army before His Old Covenant people assembled in worship, what might He do if we, the people of a new and better covenant, founded on better promises (cf. Heb. 8:6), come together and, believing His promises and forsaking all others, exult with sincere praise of His goodness?
Lord Jesus, You are so very worthy of our trust, honor, and praise. You have received all things from the Father’s love, and by Your Holy Spirit You declare what is Yours to us. Teach us to treasure every word that comes from Your mouth, to receive them as spirit and life, and to walk in Your anointing as You send us out in Your name. Blessed be Your glorious name forever. Amen.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Lux (Yale University)
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