Jehoshaphat has gone down in history as a “good” king of Judah, in spite of the fact that he made some serious mistakes. He made multiple alliances with the evil kings of Israel, and his son’s marriage to the evil daughter of Ahab wreaked havoc on the southern kingdom of Judah. With such a checkered track record, what then qualifies Jehoshaphat as a “good” king? Surely it is not just that the good he did outweighs the bad, for just as many grievous mistakes are recorded in today’s chapters as are good decisions.
Asa – Jehosaphat – Joram by Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel fresco, c. 1511-12)
The figure at left is traditionally considered to be Jehosaphat.
What makes Jehoshaphat a good king is the object of his worship: “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord,” and he tore down the high places of idol worship (2 Chron. 17:6). In today’s reading, Jehu, the seer, points out Jehoshaphat’s missteps, but says, “’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 Chron. 19:3).
When Jehoshaphat places all his confidence in the Lord, God provides mightily for him and for the people of Judah. I love the account in chapter 20 in which a mighty army is headed toward Judah, and “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:3).
He has no confidence in his own ability, no ego; Jehoshaphat is scared. He knows his only source of strength is in the Lord, and he gathers the entire kingdom to seek the Lord together. There is no question—the people are to rely on God’s provision, not on Jehoshaphat’s strength or leadership. Consider Jehoshaphat’s prayer in front of the assembly (2 Chron. 20:6-12).
Jehoshaphat lays his request before the Lord, acknowledging a humble reliance on and need for Him. They proceed in praise and trust in God, and their enemies are slain before they even reach the battleground.
We must remind each other, in life’s small and great sufferings, that the battle is not ours—it is God’s. The mark of a good king and the mark of a faithful Christian are the same: the object of our faith. Reading Jehoshaphat’s prayer reminds me of Romans 8, an appropriate battle prayer of the Christian:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)