Relying on God - or not
Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, whose ways were wicked. (2 Chronicles 20:35 NIV)
It’s so sad. But the fact is that the last recorded episode of the life of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah eight centuries before Christ, is of a foolish alliance with a wicked king.
I’d love the story of his life to have ended better - but the Bible tells life as it is, rather than as we’d like it to be. Last week, as we ended our series on 2 Chronicles, we saw God winning a great victory for Jehoshaphat without his need for any military means - it was so good. But now, even after all that, Jehoshaphat turns to his wicked neighbour up north, King Ahaziah, and builds a fleet of trading ships with him. I note:
1. This alliance was wrong in God’s eyes. He sent a prophet to rebuke Jehoshaphat. The reason is that Ahaziah was wicked, and the alliance must inevitably have involved some measure of condoning what Ahaziah was doing. We must be very careful, both as individuals and as a church, about alliances we may make which may compromise us or obscure the good news - whether at the level of personal matters like whom we marry or, as a church, with sources of funding or even some denominational alliances.
2. This alliance ultimately did Jehoshaphat no good. The Lord saw to that: the ships sank. The Lord didn’t want His people to begin to think this was a smart way forward. I note that churches in those countries where they are state funded are not exactly growing; indeed, such arrangements may cause resentment among taxpayers who are not Christians and make evangelism harder.
3. This alliance was something Jehoshaphat should have known better about. A while earlier, he’d made a foolish alliance which had nearly cost Jehoshaphat his life, and for which he’d been rebuked by another prophet. Had he such a short memory? This sad story has reminded me that we need to keep lessons we have learned in our minds, or we may need to learn them again, the hard way!
4. This alliance was entirely unnecessary. Within 2 Chronicles, this is surely the biggest lesson. We have been reminded there, again and again, of the mighty power of God. Lord, there is no-one like you to help the powerless against the mighty, cried Jehoshaphat’s father Asa (14:11). The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you, as a prophet later said (15:2). As another prophet said, For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (16:9). And as Jehoshaphat himself said, Lord… you rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you (20:6). With such a Lord, why on earth would we need earthly alliances with a wicked king?
The ending is sad, but the overall message is wonderful: rely on God, for He can be relied on!