Having narrowly escaped death after aligning himself with Ahab in a battle with the Syrians, king Jehoshaphat returns to Judah. The Bible says he “returned to his house in peace in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 19:1). It looked like things were going to go back to business as usual. Then he was verbally accosted by the prophet Jehu:
“And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, ‘Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD’” (2 Chronicles 19:2).
Sometimes, to get our attention, God has to reach down into our lives and shake our world like a snow globe just so we can watch the flakes fly. Like He did with Jehoshaphat, He doesn’t let us settle back into business as usual. He purposely shakes us up and puts our senses on high alert.
There are two things in life that God gives us that force us to see ourselves objectively. One is God’s Word and the other is godly friends. Jehu’s words were harsh, but he was no enemy of the king. In that moment with those words, he proved himself to be the king’s best friend. We don’t know what the king’s entourage said to Jehoshaphat on the way back from Israel or after they had settled in at Jerusalem, but Jehu said it like it was: “King, what you did is wrong, and God is not pleased.”
Yet Jehu did not leave him hanging there, he also encouraged him: “Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3).
Unlike Ahab, Jehoshaphat understood something:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).
Ahab surrounded himself with people who told him what he wanted to hear. If anyone had the audacity to tell him what he needed to hear, they were punished (2 Chronicles 18:25-27). Jehoshaphat was the exact opposite. He removed the places of idol worship; he restored the Levites to their rightful offices; he saw to it that the people were taught the ways of the LORD, and men like Jehu were heeded, not imprisoned.
Jehoshaphat’s response to the prophet’s rebuke showed the humility and teachability of his heart. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9).
The example of Jehoshaphat is a beacon of hope to anyone who has ever messed things up in life. Jehoshaphat messed up big time. The prophet made that clear. The difference-maker in the king’s life was his willingness to learn his from failures and to humble himself in obedience to God.
We too can recover from past failures. That doesn’t mean we can undo the consequences of our failures, but it also doesn’t mean our failures have to define us. Jehoshaphat took his lumps. He learned from his failures and saw success because instead of wallowing in his past, he followed after God.