Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Thames River, London

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 15, 2 Chr 18-20

Today’s readings are 2 Chr 18-20.

Combining the narratives from 1 Kgs 22 and 2 Chr 18 manages to fill in details either lacks if read separately. It also smooths out a story line that can be a little hard to follow and understand.

After being defeated by Ahab, a wicked king of Israel, Ben-Hadad is flexing his military muscle once again and has captured Ramoth-gilead, a strategically located fort at the entrance to the Valley of Jezreel, the valley that dominates Northern Israel. 
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, makes peace with Ahab and agrees to go to war with him to take back Ramoth-gilead. Ahab has replaced the 400 prophets killed in the encounter with Elijah, presumably from the same ungodly groups the original 400 came from. They tell Ahab he will win a great victory. Jehoshaphat wants to hear from a prophet of God. Ahab calls Michaiah who has been at odds with Ahab.

At first, Micaiah gives Ahab a sarcastic reply. Ahab gets the sarcasm and wants the truth. Micaiah relates two visions to Ahab telling him his prophets are wrong, and the king will lose the battle and die. Micaiah also reveals that God is behind the error of the king's prophets, sending a lying spirit (1 Kings 22:23) to deceive the king and draw him into battle (think about that one for a bit). So, even though Ahab repented previously, he hasn't really changed his ways and will now suffer the consequences of his actions. It is curious that Jehoshaphat, who seems like a godly man, seems so willing to ally himself with Ahab.

Zedekiah, one of Ahab’s primary prophets, accuses Micaiah of trying to co-opt the Spirit of the Lord. Zedekiah's claim is that he's the true prophet and Micaiah the false one. Micaiah prophesies that Zedekiah will have to hide from the enemy before it's all over.

Micaiah is thrown in prison with Ahab condemning him to stay there until he returns peacefully from the battle. Micaiah warns Ahab that he will not return.

Jehoshaphat joins Ahab in the battle in spite Micaiah's prophecy. In a cowardly move, Ahab disguises himself, but dies anyway, being struck by a random arrow. Jehoshaphat is protected and preserved by God.

Ahab dies well, but his men scatter after he succumbs. The prophecy concerning his death is fulfilled as they prepare his body and his chariot for burial. Dogs lap up his blood and prostitutes bathe in it.

Jehoshaphat returns to Jerusalem. He is a godly man and is blessed. But he had allowed his son Jehoram to marry Ahab's daughter, Athaliah. This questionable decision is probably the motivation behind Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab. This will have consequences.

In Ahab’s sad story, we see that God is gracious but will tolerate outright rebellion for only so long before consequences occur. We must never mistake God's patience for His acceptance of ungodly behavior. His patience is always an act of grace, giving us time to repent.

In Jehoshaphat, we see any willingness to tolerate ungodly behavior or to compromise godly behavior can be dangerous. Any child of God who aligns too closely with ungodly people, apart from God's clear leading, can be dangerous as well. This is a lesson we, as believers, should take to heart. The influence of ungodly people on us can often be far greater than our influence on them.

Jehoshaphat has three areas of struggle pointed out; He went to battle with Ahab in spite of Mecaiah's warning. He entered into an ill-fated commercial venture with Ahaziah, an apostate. And, later, we will find out he and Jehoram embark on another ill-fated journey into Transjordan.

In 2 Chr 19, Jehoshaphat returns to Jerusalem. Jehu, a prophet of God, chastises Jehoshaphat for allying himself with wicked King Ahab. Jehoshaphat repents and institutes many reforms in Judah, turning the nation back toward God. He reinvigorates the Levitical priesthood and gives them the authority to judge.

Then, some of the nations to which the Jews showed mercy the when they first arrived in Canaan suddenly turn on Judah and attack. Jehoshaphat calls out to the Lord who miraculously delivers Judah.

It is no coincidence that these attacks happen just as Jehoshaphat makes a strong commitment to godliness. God frequently allows a vow to be tested just to reveal our level of sincerity. Jehoshaphat passes that test marvelously, by turning to God for help. God responds in such a way that only He can get glory for the victory.

Amazingly, after the victory, Jehoshaphat makes an alliance with yet another wicked king of Israel, Ahaziah. They agree to build ships to go to Tarshish. Another prophecy goes forth, condemning the venture. The ships all sink. Apparently, Jehoshaphat still struggles with worldly issues despite being a godly man. His unchecked compromises will complicate matters in generations to come. He dies, leaving the kingdom to his son, Jehoram. 

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