Good morning! Today’s passage (2 Chronicles 17-20) focuses on the next generation leader in Judah, Asa’s son Jehoshaphat. Whereas Asa went from good to bad over the years of his reign, Jehoshaphat stays remarkably true to Israel’s God throughout his life. He does get into dicey situations, but his uprightness helps to keep bad things from becoming worse. Jehoshaphat’s example, and the counterexamples of others in these chapters, show us the importance of integrity, staying true to oneself and one’s God.
We meet Jehoshaphat (again) in chapter 17, and we find out from the beginning that he is “one of the good guys”. His reign seems like a renaissance of sorts for Judah’s power, culture and influence. Jehoshaphat pursues strength in military defense, education initiatives, and international diplomacy. His prudence and success in these matters leads to great riches and power. Jehoshaphat sounds like Solomon his forbearer, though the later king didn’t enjoy the same privileges that Solomon inherited.
Jehoshaphat’s integrity and authenticity are tested when he makes an alliance with King Ahab of Israel. (Remember that Ahab and his wife Jezebel are the antagonists we met earlier in all those epic battles against the prophet Elijah.) Ahab persuades Jehoshaphat to join in an attack, but Jehoshaphat wants to make sure God’s opinion has been heard. When Israel’s four hundred court prophets are unanimous in their support, Judah’s king nevertheless asks if there are any other prophets who haven’t been consulted, which is how we meet Micaiah (again). Ahab doesn’t care for this outlier prophet, who is another key example of integrity. Despite unanimity among the other prophets, Micaiah vows to follow what the word of the Lord says to him. This willingness to be in the minority or all alone, even at great cost, is one of the hallmarks of being a prophet. Contrast Micaiah’s “to thine own self be true whatever the costs” with Ahab, who simply wants to fulfill his own desires. Ahab chooses to listen to the false prophets, those who are not truly giving voice to God’s commands. When the battle is joined, deceitful Ahab (hiding in another person’s armor and not being true to himself) falls victim to a stray arrow. Jehoshaphat survives the battle with God’s help, and returns to Jerusalem.
In chapter 19, Judah’s king underscores again in his commands to others the importance of being true to their identity and purpose, not taking the easy or cheater’s way out. Jehoshaphat says as much to the judges of Judah, then to the Levites who are to decide tough cases in Jerusalem. He tells them to not be deceitful or two-minded, but to “deal courageously”, saying what needs to be said, no matter the consequences. They are to take responsibility for discerning and doing what is right, even when they are in apparently impossible situations.
Jehoshaphat demonstrates this principle in action again with chapter 20’s battle against the Moabite and Ammonite alliance. When threatened and greatly outnumbered, Jehoshaphat doesn’t turn to trickery or alliances but rather to God, the undiminished source of power and protection. The king calls on God to be who God is: “you will hear and save”. In that integrity, God does act to save Judah. The opposing battle forces fall on and kill each other, so all Judah has to do is go out and pick up the loot. The Chronicler’s closing mention of Jehoshaphat’s failed pact with wicked King Ahaziah of Israel (northern alliances are apparently a weakness for Jehoshaphat) lets us know that Judah’s king doesn’t always get it right, but this lapse is the exception to the rule. Overall, Jehoshaphat’s life is an argument for the wisdom of integrity in leadership and devotion. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Chronicles 21-24. Thanks for reading!