2 Chronicles 18:1-34
We are currently thinking about the subject of when desires clash using the ‘window’ of the life of Jehoshaphat. You and I struggle with choices to follow good and evil desires; we always will. In this life we will never progress beyond the necessity of making choices in which the alternatives allure us. For this reason, I hope you are part of a gathering of Christ followers who accept that believers have to struggle with temptation and sin. It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to remain not okay. If we can grasp that idea, we might be able to see spiritual progress in our local gatherings of believers. God gives grace to change through Jesus Christ, the Lord. In previous articles, we looked at the reality of conflicting desires in everyone and at three good desires of Jehoshaphat: to strengthen his kingdom, to seek the Lord, and to teach his people the ways of the Lord. In this section, we will concentrate mainly on Jehoshaphat rather than Ahab, since this is the interest of the Chronicler.
How did Jehoshaphat’s problems start (18:1)? First, he wandered from a position of great blessing. We need to remain where God is blessing us, rather than to roam after other things. As we have seen in previous articles, he started well by walking in God’s ways and by seeking to establish God’s supremacy in the worship of Judah, the southern kingdom (cf. 17:3-4, 6). The Lord had honored Jehoshaphat good desires and actions, had caused him to prosper, and had caused the nations to fear the Lord to protect Judah (17:5, 10). There was no external reason for Jehoshaphat to wander. The Lord had already been working visibly for his good. The sad truth is that we don’t need external reasons to wander! Consider what Jesus said. “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23 HCSB). Consider also Hebrews 3:12; 1 Peter 2:11.
So then, what happened to Jehoshaphat that he desired to ally himself, his family, and his kingdom with wicked Ahab? Why would a believer like Jehoshaphat do this? The Bible does not answer that question. Oh, it is easy to speculate, and Christians like to guess when the Spirit does not reveal. So, it is easy to suggest plausible desires like the desire for protection from the growing threat of Assyria, the desire for peace with Israel after years of war, or even some desire to gain the throne of Israel for his son Jehoram by having him marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, and so reunify the divided kingdoms. But the Scriptures are silent about such conjectures. Please don’t waste your time in the Bible trying to “discover” what the Holy Spirit hasn’t revealed. You have enough to do in learning what God has clearly declared.
The important fact is that Jehoshaphat gave in to some desire that led him astray for a time, and it was nearly a fatal error! This alliance was going to cost many lives, wreak havoc in the kingdom of Judah, and put the line of the Messiah in jeopardy, from a human point of view. At times, the Spirit doesn’t answer our questions about why people did things. He wants us to look at our lives through the narrative that we might realize that we can be led astray for many reasons. More important than wondering why Jehoshaphat might do what he did is to examine our hearts about what might be leading us astray from the ways of the Lord.
If Jehoshaphat could wander, then we should not proudly suppose our firm loyalty to the Lord. This story is a warning sign to us all. What sinful desires are you struggling with? How is the struggle going? Do you keep godly friends near you when you know that you will be in places where temptations easily arise?
Grace and peace, David
P.S. The picture at the top of this article shows smoke arising up out of the ground. Any guesses where that picture was taken?