King Jehoshaphat reigned in Judah during difficult times. By the time he reigned, the once great nation of Israel had broken in two with ten tribes in the north known collectively as Israel and two tribes in the south – Judah and Benjamin – known collectively as Judah.
Idolatry was commonplace amongst the kingdoms surrounding Jehoshaphat with Baal worship being the most popular religion of the day. Israel was known for it. In some respects, Israel was more wicked in that form of worship than some of the heathen nations that surrounded it.
Jehoshaphat did not yield to the popular religion.
2 Chronicles 17:3b-4
(3) …[H]e walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;
(4) But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
Standing against the crowd makes you stand out from the crowd
Did this make him stand out amongst the kings of his day? Probably. Did it make him the object of ridicule and disdain amongst his fellow rulers? Perhaps. Did it make him stand out before God? Absolutely.
Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. (2 Chronicles 17:5)
Jehoshaphat was intentional in his worship of God. He was also enthusiastic about it. He got rid of idolatry in his kingdom, he restored the Levitical priests to their proper offices and he had them teach the people in the ways of God. Because of his obedience to God’s ways “…the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 17:10).
When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
That doesn’t mean that Jehoshaphat’s enemies did not despise him. It just means that God kept them at bay to allow Jehoshaphat the space he needed to do God’s work.
When you and I choose to honor God with our lives, God often paves the way ahead of us to help us along in our obedience to Him. Grace begets more grace.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)
Going with the crowd is safe. Standing out has consequences.
That’s not to say that because of his obedience that Jehoshaphat’s reign was all sweetness and light. Eventually, his enemies did rise up against him:
It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. (2 Chronicles 20:1)
This happened after Jehoshaphat’s ill-advised allegiance with Ahab of Israel. Jehoshaphat nearly lost his life because of that allegiance and was rebuked by the prophet Jehu for his foolishness (2 Chronicles 19:1-2). Thankfully, the king was repentant and returned to following the Lord. Still, perhaps because of his disobedience, his enemies came:
Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi. (2 Chronicles 20:2)
This was a test of Jehoshaphat’s faith and resolve. When we seek to do right, the enemies of right will seek to do us harm.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
The king could have done like his father Asa before him and acted according to the norm. He could have sent money to one of the nearby kingdoms and paid them for their protection (2 Chronicles 16:4). Instead, he continued to act against the norm. He turned to God.
His prayer (2 Chronicles 20:5-12) is a beautiful one and recounts everything that Jehoshaphat knew about God from his fellowship with him. Because of his faith, God answered the king’s prayer in a way that was also against the norm:
And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness [the place of battle], they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. (2 Chronicles 20:24)
God stepped in for Jehoshaphat and subdued his enemies for him.
You might be at a point in your life where you have decided: “I’m going to live for God.” Be prepared to see God’s blessing in your life because of that decision, but also be ready to have your faith tested like Jehoshaphat’s faith was tested. You might face resistance from those around you. Don’t let it surprise you and don’t let it discourage you. Remember that God is with those who follow Him against the norm.