Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. (2 Chronicles 18:1)
If there was one big dumb thing that Jehoshaphat did on his dumb list, it was joining forces with Ahab. Ahab was Israelite in name only. Married to Jezebel, he was actively involved in pagan worship and under his queen’s influence, led his kingdom to do the same. Jehoshaphat had no business being aligned with such a king, but he gave Ahab his allegiance anyway and it would cost him.
“And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead.” (2 Chronicles 18:2)
Ramothgilead was where Ahab was about to do war with the Syrians. Since Jehoshaphat was now his ally, he asked the king of Judah to join him, and the king readily agreed: “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people, and we will be with thee in the war” (2 Chronicles 18:3). Jehoshaphat was not just committing himself, but his own people. That meant soldiers of Judah would give their lives in this conflict, soldiers with friends, and loved ones. The dumb actions that come as a result of our dumb decisions never just affect us.
True to his faith, Jehoshaphat asked that prophets be consulted prior to going into battle. Ahab was happy to oblige. He had plenty of “prophets” on his payroll. They all told him the same thing: “Go up, for God will deliver it [Ramothgilead] into the king’s hand” (2 Chronicles 18:5b). Based on Jehoshaphat’s reaction, it’s clear that these “prophets” were delivering nothing by fake news, because he asked:
“Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?” (2 Chronicles 18:6b)
There was. He was a prophet named Micaiah; a man Ahab hated because he always spoke the truth (2 Chronicles 18:7). Micaiah did not side with the prophets on Ahab’s payroll. Instead, he said: “I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd,” implying that Ahab would meet his death (2 Chronicles 18:16).
Ahab’s plan to get around this prophetic utterance was to go into battle in disguise while king Jehoshaphat would proceed into battle dressed in his usual kingly battle attire. Why Jehoshaphat didn’t see he was being set up is a mystery except to say that he had already committed himself to Ahab and could not go back on his word.
Jehoshaphat was so intent on seeing Israel and Judah united that he was willing to make commitments that were a danger to himself and his own people. Ahab did indeed meet his death in that battle despite his attempt at disguise. Jehoshaphat only narrowly escaped with his life. Who knows how many Israelites died that day and who knows how many families of Judah had to mourn the loss of their loved ones because of Jehoshaphat’s ill-advised allegiance with Ahab? Jehoshaphat gave his word before consulting the prophets because he was running ahead of God. How many times have we sought God’s counsel after the fact because we wanted God to bless our plan rather than wait on Him to show us His plans?
Experience is a hard teacher because it gives the tests first and the lessons afterwards. It is why God is so intent on giving us His wisdom, because wisdom seeks to give us the lessons ahead of the tests. Jehoshaphat learned some hard lessons the hard way. He made his plans and then sought the Lord because he wanted so much for the Lord to bless his plans. He got it all backwards.