Lessons From a Great Man’s Failures (III)

The Bible tells us that after Jehoshaphat had allied himself by marriage with Ahab, “some years later he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria” (II Chron.18:2). Ahab prepared a feast for him and those with him.

What is happening here? It is a foolish person indeed who thinks Ahab is being neighbourly. Ahab is an idolator and political manipulator, giving his godly neighbour a very warm welcome, for a reason. Having taken advantage of Jehoshaphat’s naivete once before by shrewdly arranging a political marriage, Ahab now says to himself, “let’s go one step further with this dumb bunny.”

He puts on a feast for Jehoshaphat, and “slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him…” This must be understood religiously too. Paul’s instruction that “you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (I Cor.11:21), is a challenge to us that all of life is religious. Jehoshaphat should have known this too. The feast he was participating in may not have seemed to him to be a table of demons, but that only reveals how gullible he was.

Jehoshaphat ignores Solomon’s directions:

When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food (Prov.23:1-3).

The modern Church too, is gullible and naive. It doesn’t see the scriptural writing on the wall, doesn’t take not of the fact that there are many modern political manipulators just like Ahab, and it has ignored Paul’s comments about Satan, that “…we are not ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor.2:11). So, the Church wants to “improve” State education with tax-payer funded Chaplains, and today many well-meaning Christians in Australia are fighting a High Court challenge to show that Christians mean business. They want to Christianise things that God never wanted Christianised.

Jehoshaphat is hooked-line and sinker. Having set him up with a sumptuous feast, Ahab now puts the hard word on him. He invites him to join him in making aggressive war against Ramoth-gilead (II Chron.18:1-3). Jehoshaphat has been softened up by Ahab, and now he is thoroughly seduced. His reply is most illuminating: “I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in the battle.”

This is the language of covenant and marriage, reflected in Adam’s initial description of his relationship with Eve (Gen.2:23-24) and in Ruth’s commitment to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17).  Jehoshaphat knows this. He covenants for Judah to go into battle alongside an evil king against a pagan king, failing to realise that “a man who flatters his neighbour is spreading a net for his steps” (Prov.29:5).

Ahab says the Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you put on your robes”  (II Chron.18:29). It looks as though Ahab had a plan. If he can entice Jehoshaphat into battle and he is killed, Ahab will be able to indirectly control events in Judah through his daughter Athaliah, and his son in law.

Mercifully, Ahab’s devious scheme blows up in his face and he is killed, and Jehoshaphat is only saved from battlefield death by a miracle (II Chron.18:30-31). When he returns to Jerusalem, Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him.

Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord? But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth  from the land and you have set your heart to seek God (II Chron.19:1-4).

Now it’s no shame to be reproved; we all need reproof from time to time. The Bible tells us that “…reproofs for discipline are the way of life…” (Prov.6:23). But has Jehoshaphat learnt anything?

He goes back to what he does best, and what he is called to: reforming the nation, appointing judges, and turning the people back to the God of their fathers.

But before too long, there is another incident. Jehoshaphat “…allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing” (II Chron.20:35). This seems to have been a commercial proposition that Jehoshaphat was engaging in, and once again he is confronted by a prophet:             “‘because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the Lord has destroyed your works.’ So, the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish” (II Chron.20:37).

Jehoshaphat has gone back to his old routine, and once again God sends a prophet to confront him.

His error?

A propensity to trust in, and make covenant with evil people or institutions.

God blows on the idea, again.

Conclusion:

We stand in the midst of many generations. If we are indifferent to those who went before us and actually existed, how can we expect to be concerned for the well-being of those who come after us and only potentially exist?[1]

Every one of us can be as gullible as Jehoshaphat, and we need to be guided by the scriptures, so that people of a hostile religious faith do not deceive and take advantage of us.

The tragic consequences of Jehoshaphat’s initial errors were not all evident for at least thirty years in his family. Our decisions today too, can have consequences many years from now, that we can hardly foresee. God give us wisdom to make choices that are pleasing to Him, that will ultimately bless others.


[1] David R. Carlin,  Church History, 9:1, February 1990, quoted in Grant, G., “The Third Time,” 1991, p.174-5.

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