Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of the southern kingdom of Judah and ruled for 25 years total (4 of those years he ruled as co-regency with his father). He became the sole ruler of the kingdom of Judah after his father, Asa, died in 869 BC. Asa was a good king as well as a good role model for his son, for “Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him” (2 Corinthians 14:2-5).
Asa was also a good role model for his son in showing him how to pray and depend on the Lord for help. Once, the Ethiopian army of a million men and 300 chariots came against Judah.
“So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!
So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the Lord and His army. And they carried away very much spoil. Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 14:10-15
The LORD is described as a man of war in Exodus 15:3. “The LORD (Yahweh) is a man of war. The LORD is His name.” How can the LORD be a man? The LORD or Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Here is a description of this ‘man’ of war that David gave in Psalm 18:7-14:
Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Asa was wise in that he did not depend on his military might and his army but instead depended on the Lord. Many true believers of Yahweh defected from Israel to Judah when they realized that God was with Asa. Because of Asa’s righteousness and mentoring of the people, God allowed Judah to be at peace for many decades. They even celebrated the feast of Pentecost (in the third month, in the 15th year of Asa’s rule), which hadn’t been done in a long time. They sacrificed 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep (seven being a perfect and complete number of God). They even entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul. “They sought Him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about” (2 Chronicles 15:12,15).
Asa reigned for 41 years as king of Judah. Eight kings reigned in Israel during Asa’s 41-year rule, and they were all evil. However, when Asa was old, he made the mistake of depending on another country (Aram/Syria) for assistance against Israel instead of the Lord. God forgave him because, in God’s eyes, the heart of Asa was perfect all his days (2 Chronicles 15:17).
Jehoshaphat followed in the footsteps of his father. He was one of the best kings of Judah regarding his love of the Lord.
“And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David (actually David was his 3rd great grandfather), and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord; moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.” 2 Chronicles 17:3-6
You can tell the difference between the great kings and the good kings of Judah by this one thing: if they took away the high places and groves to keep the people from worshiping there. He also sent out traveling teachers of the law of Moses and reorganized Judah’s justice system by placing judges in key cities and a high court in Jerusalem, with Levites and priests as judges.
The evil King Ahab of Israel reigned in the time of Jehoshaphat. There couldn’t have been more of a contrast between the two kings. About this time, Ahab was at war with Syria, and so he called a meeting with Jehoshaphat to see if he would join forces with him against Syria. Jehoshaphat answered him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; and we will be with you in the war” (2 Chronicles 18:3). This is the war where Ahab is struck with an arrow as he is riding in his chariot and dies shortly afterward. Jehoshaphat gets in trouble as he is surrounded by enemy forces but cries out to the Lord, who helps him to escape.
When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, a prophet by the name of Jehu gave him this message from the Lord: “Should you help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord [Israel/Ahab]? Therefore is wrath upon you from before the Lord, Nevertheless, there are good things found in you, in that you have taken away the groves out of the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 18:2-3). The other thing Jehoshaphat did that wasn’t good was he arranged a marriage between his son, Jehoram, and king Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, who was evil like her father and mother. “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21;6-7).
It came to pass after this that the nations of Moab and Ammon (and others) were marching towards Jerusalem. “And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4). Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, and spoke to the Lord, asking for his help. 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 is one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Old Testament. It was so good (and aligned with God’s will) that God answered it right away. Here is Jehoshaphat’s prayer and petition before the Lord:
“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save. And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
After this petition to the Lord, Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph came forward with the mighty Spirit of the Lord upon him and said, “Hearken you, all Judah and Jerusalem, and you king Jehoshaphat, Thus says the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand you still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem; fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.”
2 Chronicles 20:15-17
These words of Jahaziel (from the Lord) are some of the same words that were used by Moses during the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever” (Exodus 14:13).
Jehovah/Yahweh used one of his favorite methods to destroy the enemies of Judah. He got the different armies to fight against one another (just like He will do with Gog and his allies during the war of Gog/Magog in Ezekiel 38-39). It must have been sheer madness. “And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:24).
“When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much. And on the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berachah, for there they blessed the Lord; therefore the name of that place was called The Valley of Berachah until this day. Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front of them, to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.” 2 Chronicles 20:25-30
Because of king Jehoshaphat’s godly prayer, Judah was delivered from their enemies who vastly outnumbered them. Let’s dissect this prayer into 5 parts:
1) Jehoshaphat praised and revered God for His power and might. He acknowledged that it was by God’s power that the idol-worshiping inhabitants of the land were driven out, and not by the power of the children of Israel.
2) Jehoshaphat reverently mentioned the covenant between Abraham (and his descendants) and the Lord regarding the ownership of the land of Canaan (now Judah). He also mentioned the temple that the people built so they could worship Him. IOW, the temple of the Lord was now in danger of being taken over by their enemies.
3) Jehoshaphat was praying in faith that God would hear his prayer and would answer it by defeating their enemies.
4) Jehoshaphat reviewed some ancient history with God. When the children of Israel first left Egypt, they could have attacked these kingdoms right away and entered the Promised Land, but God would not allow it. Jehoshaphat told God that this is how those kingdoms were now repaying them, by attacking Judah and displacing them out of the land that the Lord Himself had given to the children of Israel. He prayed that God would judge them for this evil action.
5) Jehoshaphat acknowledged that Judah couldn’t win this battle without the Lord’s intervention. King David had mentioned this himself many years ago when he said: “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength” (Psalm 33:16).
The Lord answered Jehoshaphat’s righteous prayer and the people of Judah were saved from certain destruction. If you think your lone prayer is not going to do any good, then think again, and remember Jehoshaphat and his prayer.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Psalm 3:6). Someone once said: “Work as it is up to you and pray as it is up to the Lord.” Can I get an amen?
Randy Nettles firstname.lastname@example.org