What a fascinating set of readings we have today! We read yesterday in 2 Chronicles of the great successes of Jehoshaphat and how “the LORD established the kingdom in his hand … His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD” and he “grew steadily greater” (17:5,6,12). However, in chapter 18 we read of his serious error of judgement. “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honour and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab”, whose wife was the infamous Jezebel. In theory Ahab worshipped the God of Israel, but in practice he was a man without any principles.
Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to join him in fighting against the Syrians, and Jehoshaphat says, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war” (verse 3). The war is a disaster and Ahab is killed; Ahab ignored the warnings of a genuine prophet of the Lord. When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, a “seer went out to meet him and said … ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asherahs (idols) out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God’” (verses 2,3).
What a valuable lesson there is in this sequence of events! We show whether we really love the Lord or not by what we do. Ahab was ostensibly an Israelite, but his actions repeatedly showed he was not one in his heart – tragically this is also the situation with some Christians – it is easy to accept that all who claim Christ to be their Saviour are genuine, but as with Ahab, actions speak louder than words. A really good God-fearing man like Jehoshaphat made a serious mistake with tragic consequences, especially for the next generations.
Peter wrote to the early believers telling them that “having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). The truth as taught by Jesus and the Apostles is the foundation, then acts of love build upon it; acts which must be from “a pure heart”. How tragic was the failure of Jehoshaphat after he said, “I am as you are”! His life story provides a meaningful lesson for us.