June 12, 2005 ~ Westney Heights Baptist Church
Condensed timeline of Jehoshaphat (dates from Ussher’s The Annals of the World)
919 BC – Judah is attacked by Baasha, king of Israel and Asa, king of Judah, refuses to ask God for help but relies on Syria instead, he is criticized for his behaviour by the prophet Hanani
914 BC – Jehoshaphat begins to rule over Judah
912 BC – Jehoshaphat sends teachers through Judah to teach the people from the law of God
907 BC – Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, is married to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat
901 BC – Assyria attacks Israel and is defeated by the Angel of the Lord
899 BC – Ahab treacherously obtains Naboth’s vineyard
897 BC – Jehoshaphat visits Ahab of Israel, attacks Ramoth Gilead with him, and is reproved by the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, for befriending the enemies of God but is praised for his devotion to God, Ahab dies in battle as prophesied by the prophet Micaiah
897 BC – Jehoshaphat again sends teachers throughout the land of Judah
897 BC – Moab, Ammon and Edom join forces to attack Judah, Jehoshaphat appeals to God and is miraculously saved
897 BC – Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, son of Ahab, build a fleet of ships for trad, Jehoshaphat is reproved by the prophet Eliezer and God destroys the fleet
896 BC – Elijah taken up into heaven, Elisha takes up his office
896 BC – Jehoshaphat, Jehoram (Ahab’s son, Ahaziah’s brother) and the King of Edom attack Moab, are without water during their march (which God miraculously provides), and are told by Elisha that they will overcome Moab
889 BC – Jehoshaphat dies after ruling Judah 25 years
Does God care? Are the things that concern us also things that concern Him? Does He care that the mortgage is due, that our car is old, that our enemies seek to do us harm?
I’d like to talk to you tonight about trust and a man named Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was a king of the nation of Judah, the fourth since the death of King Solomon. In the books of Chronicles this summary is made of him:
2 Chronicles 20:32 – He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.
I think that I would have liked to meet King Jehoshaphat. In many ways he reminds me of the man that I would like to be: A man who does what is right in the eyes of God and who trusts God for his salvation. We can often be overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives or the events that are happening around us. Almost without thought we follow a plan of action that, although it seems right to us, fails to acknowledge the power of God or His willingness to take action in our lives.
About 17 years into his reign (around 897 BC) Jehoshaphat was faced with an overwhelming situation. Moab, Ammon and Edom, nations at various times subject to Israel and Judah, rebelled and joined forces to fight against Judah. The Bible tells us that the combined army was vast and that Jehoshaphat was alarmed. At this point in time Jehoshaphat could field an army of over one million warriors
2 Chronicles 17:12-19 – Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful; he built forts and store cities in Judah 13 and had large supplies in the towns of Judah. He also kept experienced fighting men in Jerusalem. 14 Their enrollment by families was as follows: From Judah, commanders of units of 1,000: Adnah the commander, with 300,000 fighting men; 15 next, Jehohanan the commander, with 280,000; 16 next, Amasiah son of Zicri, who volunteered himself for the service of the LORD, with 200,000. 17 From Benjamin: Eliada, a valiant soldier, with 200,000 men armed with bows and shields; 18 next, Jehozabad, with 180,000 men armed for battle. 19 These were the men who served the king, besides those he stationed in the fortified cities throughout Judah.
Yet in spite of the size of his own army Jehoshaphat is convinced that he is unable to defeat his enemies and so his first response is to consult God:
2 Chronicles 20:6-12 – "O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ 10 "But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
and all of Judah follows Jehoshaphat’s example:
2 Chronicles 20:13 – All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
Jehoshaphat was a contemporary of two of the great prophets of the Old Testament: Elijah and Elisha. Perhaps he recalled the times when God had given the armies of Syria into Israel’s hand in spite of the wickedness of her kings. Perhaps he recalled the time that Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son from death, or the time that Naaman was healed of his leprosy. Perhaps he remembered events even further back during the reign of King David and the victories that God had given David over all of his enemies. Regardless of what he remembered when Jehoshaphat turned to God he acknowledged two beliefs:
1/ He acknowledged that God possessed the power to help Judah out of her crisis and the willingness to use it
2/ He acknowledged that he depended on God for his deliverance and that he had faith that God would deliver them
God hears Jehoshaphat’s cry for help and sends word through the prophet Jahaziel that He will help:
2 Chronicles 20:14-17 – Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 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. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’"
God honoured Jehoshaphat’s cry for help in spite of Jehoshaphat’s sin. Jehoshaphat did not have to become perfect before God would help him. He had made several alliances with Israel, already condemned to destruction for its idolatry, and was rebuked by God in each case.
1/ Jehoshaphat made an alliance with King Ahab:
2 Chronicles 18:3 – And Ahab the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he said to him, As I am, so are you; and as your people, so my people, even with you in battle.
2 Chronicles 19:1-3 – And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. 2 And Jehu the son of Hanani, the seer, went out before him and said to king Jehoshaphat, Do you love to help the bad one, and those who hate Jehovah, and by this bring wrath on you from the face of Jehovah? 3 But good things have been found with you, for you have burned the Asherahs out of the land, and have fixed your heart to seek God.
2/ Jehoshaphat arranged a marriage between his son Jehoram and King Omri’s daughter Athalia, sister to King Ahab:
2 Chronicles 21:5-6 – Jehoram was a son of thirty two years when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 6 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab, for a daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did the evil in the eyes of Jehovah.
3/ Jehoshaphat mad an alliance with King Ahaziah:
2 Chronicles 20:35-36 – And after this Jehoshaphat the king of Judah joined himself with Ahaziah the king of Israel; he did wickedly to do so. 36 And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish; and they made the ships in Eziongeber.
2 Chronicles 20:37 – And Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because you have joined yourself with Ahaziah, Jehovah has broken your works. And the ships were broken, so that they did not hold to go to Tarshish.
Yet in spite of the sins he had committed and those that he would commit in the future, of which God was already aware, God promises to help Judah to the extent that they would not have to lift a finger against their enemies. Notice that no condition is placed on Jehoshaphat or the people of Judah. God does not tell them that He will help them if they do this, that or the other thing. He does not require Judah to do anything but watch but in thanks to their God they praise Him:
2 Chronicles 20:18-19 – Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.
Not only do they praise Him but they follow through the next day and continue praising Him as they march to meet their enemies:
2 Chronicles 20:20-21 – Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever."
They are not marching to fight them but to see the wonder that God would perform to save them. Although the army of Judah was marching no indication is given that they were preparing to do any more than praise God and be spectators of a battle they would take no part in. And God works a miracle:
2 Chronicles 20:22-24 – As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.
In the aftermath of this great victory Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah strip their enemies of plunder and continue to praise God. So much was taken from the battlefield that three days went by before they were finished
2 Chronicles 20:25-30 – So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value— more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day. 27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets. 29 The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
There are lessons in Jehoshaphat’s experience that we would do well to learn:
1/ When in trouble call on God, seek Him first – One of the criticisms made against Jehoshaphat’s father, King Asa, was that he did not ask God for help with his problems:
2 Chronicles 16:7-12 – At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: "Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war." 10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people. 11 The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.
Jehoshaphat’s first response was to call on God rather than any human agency.
2/ When God answers trust Him to keep His word and act appropriately – Jehoshaphat trusted God and therefore prepared his army for worship rather than war.
With Jehoshaphat we see that God should and can be trusted. But occasionally He says “No” and He is to be trusted then as well. Our trust in God is worthless if it ceases the moment we do not get the answer that we would like. From the lives of men such as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego we learn an additional lesson on trust in the face of the unwanted answer:
3/ Trust God in spite of the outcome – When these three men refused to worship the golden idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon they were threatened with death. Their response is exemplary:
Daniel 3:14-18 – Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
I think that I would have liked to meet Jehoshaphat. A man like him who could rely on God in the middle of a national crisis and influence his people to do so in spite of his personal failings must have been some kind of a man.