EARLIER WE WITNESSED A KING who began well and ended poorly (Asa; see December 13–14); still earlier, we witnessed a halfhearted reformer (Rehoboam; see December 11).
Now we come across another, King Jehoshaphat, who does not degenerate, nor does he slide along in a gray zone between good and evil, but rather proves to be very good in some areas and not very discerning and even stupid in others—all his life (2 Chron. 19–20).
The two previous chapters (2 Chron. 17–18) can be divided into two parts. Chapter 17 depicts the strengths of Jehoshaphat—the man who diligently seeks the Lord and fortifies the entire southern kingdom. By contrast, chapter 18 depicts foolish Jehoshaphat, enmeshed in a needless and compromised alliance with wicked King Ahab of Israel, almost losing his life in a fight that wasn't his. Now in the chapters before us, the prophet Jehu, son of the prophet Hanani who had been imprisoned by Asa in his old age, confronts Jehoshaphat: "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God" (2 Chron. 19:2–3).
Then the pattern repeats itself. Jehoshaphat works diligently to rid the judiciary of corruption (2 Chron. 19:4–11). When he faces another military crisis, this time the nations of Moab and Ammon allied against him, he turns to God for help. The culmination of his prayer is intensely moving: "O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chron. 20:12). In his mercy, God sends his Spirit upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, who carries a prophetic word to strengthen and encourage Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chron. 20:15ff). The victory they win is extravagant, and the Lord graciously imposes "the fear of God" upon the surrounding kingdoms, thereby giving Jehoshaphat and Judah rest.
So what does Jehoshaphat do? He makes another stupid and unnecessary alliance, this time with Ahaziah, the new king of Israel, and is soundly rebuked by another prophetic word (2 Chron. 20:35–37). Doesn't the man ever learn?
Today we would probably label such deeply disturbing repetitions "character flaws." They can occur in people whose lives, on so many levels, are entirely praiseworthy. At one level it is entirely right to thank God for the good these people do. But would it not have been far better if Jehoshaphat had learned from his first mistakes?
Would it be impertinent to ask if you and I learn from ours?