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Three Kings; Six Prophets 

MORNING MESSAGE: John Cline

 1 Kings 15,22; 2 Chronicles 13-20  

Reader: Keith Harcus

None of the 19 kings of the divided kingdom of Israel were good, faithful, or righteous. Their reigns were marked by treachery and bloodshed. We have studied how Elijah and Elisha the prophets ministered almost exclusively to the kings and people of Israel, and we will see today that Micaiah was another prophet to Israel who ministered at that time. The situation in Judah was somewhat better for, of Judah’s 19 kings, 8 were good, faithful, and righteous. Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah did not minister in Judah but in Israel, so today we will meet 5 lesser-known prophets who did minister in Judah. Now the kingship in Judah is spoken of positively in the O.T. because those kings of Judah were descendants of King David, and God had revealed that it would be through the bloodline of King David that the Messiah (Jesus) would come. It would not be through the kings of Israel.

      Project timeline of Israel’s and Judah’s kings

We should reiterate a few points we made a couple of months ago about the first 3 kings of Judah: Rehoboam, Abijah and Asa. The first king, Rehoboam, was a hotheaded fool when he listened to the bad advice of his young friends instead of to the wiser, cautious advice of his elders on the issue of too heavily taxing the people. Rehoboam’s decision to tax the people of Israel even more harshly than his father Solomon had, led Jeroboam and 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel to reject his rule. They formed their own nation with Jeroboam as their first king, while retaining the name of “Israel” for their nation. Meanwhile, the two remaining tribes, Benjamin and Judah, formed a new nation, Judah, where Rehoboam reigned. After Rehoboam died, his son Abijah became the king of Judah. He was a bad king. About him we read,

In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom. He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. (1 Kings 15:1-4)

Abijah’s son, Asa, was that “lamp in Jerusalem” mentioned through whom God would work, but, in the meantime, Abijah allowed his mother Maakah to set up in Judah shrines to Asherah, that repulsive goddess of the Canaanites, thus causing the people to be weak in their devotion to YHWH God. Queen Jezebel had done the same thing in Israel but, here it was in Judah that Maakah set up the Asherah poles. So, after Abijah came his son Asa, God’s “lamp in Jerusalem”.

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. (1st Kings 15:9-13)

There would have been some ice-cold family dinners in Asa’s palace, I’m sure, but Asa stuck to doing what was right. Here we meet Azariah, the first of today’s five prophets to Judah that are mentioned.

The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple. (2nd Chronicles 15:1,2,7b-9)

God’s prophets spoke encouraging words when the kings did the right thing, as we just heard with the prophet Azariah. But they also called out Judah’s kings if those kings were sinning. We see this with the second of today’s five prophets to Judah, Hanani. King Asa was afraid for the well-being of his nation Judah after it became known that Baasha of Israel was preparing to go to war against Judah.

Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold.” (2nd Chronicles 16:2,3a)

In his fear, instead of trusting in YHWH God, Asa entrusted Judah’s well-being to King Ben-Hadad of Aram, who was no friend of Judah’s.

At that time Hanani the prophet came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people. In the 39th year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. Then in the 41st year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors. (2 Chronicles 16:7,9-11,13)

Let’s not be like Asa, whose sin (which he refused to repent of) was made worse by another sin (as we just heard), and then another, (as we again just heard, compounding sins), until misery resulted.

Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. In the third year of his reign, he sent his officials and certain Levites and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. (2nd Chronicles 17:1,3-9)

Remember, the people did not have written bibles like we do. God’s Word needed to be read out loud to them, and that is what Jehoshaphat arranged by having priests and his officials go throughout the land doing so. Though Jehoshaphat was a good and righteous king, he did have a fatal flaw: that of being a nice guy, too soft and trusting with the wrong people. For example, Jehoshaphat was talked into giving his son Jehoram in marriage to the family of Israel’s King Ahab.

Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage. Some years later he went down to see Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered many sheep and cattle for him and the people with him and urged him to attack Ramoth Gilead. Ahab king of Israel asked Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?” (2 Chronicles 18:1-3a)

Because they were related by marriage, Ahab felt comfortable manipulating Jehoshaphat. Ramoth Gilead, a formerly Levitical city in Israel, had been captured by Aram and was being used as a launching pad for attacks against Israel. King Ahab wanted those attacks stopped.

Jehoshaphat replied, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” So, the king of Israel brought together the prophets—four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Go,” they answered, “for God will give it into the king’s hand.” (2 Chronicles 18:1-5)

Jehoshaphat worshipped God and so he requested YHWH be consulted before any battle was fought. King Ahab of Israel – no worshipper of YHWH – brought in 400 priests of Baal (who predicted victory).

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” “The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied. So, the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.” (2nd Chronicles 18:6-8)

So, besides Elijah and Elisha, Micaiah was also God’s prophet in Israel.

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says.” When he arrived, the king (of Israel) asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.” The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” (2nd Chronicles 18:12-15)

Ahab knew that Micaiah was speaking with his tongue planted firmly in cheek and it annoyed him. So, Micaiah became deadly serious and then told the truth of what would happen.

Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’” The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” (2nd Chronicles 18:16-22)

Ahab was worried and came up with a scheme to save himself. Good ol’ naïve, agreeable, Jehoshaphat went along with Ahab and his plan. Simply put, he didn’t know how to say, “No”.

So, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So, the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. Now the king of Aram had ordered his chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.” When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, “This is the king of Israel.” So, they turned to attack him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him, for when the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel, they stopped pursuing him. But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the breastplate and the scale armor. The king told the chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening. Then at sunset he died. (2 Chronicles 18:28-34)

That day’s events must have been swirling in Jehoshaphat’s mind. So, he wouldn’t have been surprised to find waiting for him in Jerusalem, prophet #3 to Judah, Jehu, the son of Hanani, prophet #2.

When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, Jehu the prophet, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.” (2nd Chronicles 19:1-3)

This time, King Jehoshaphat learned his lesson about whom to trust.

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. (2 Chronicles 20:1-3)

Jehoshaphat did a lot of right things here, including standing outside the Temple and giving a speech to the people gathered there recalling Judah’s history: how YHWH God had looked after His people, and had brought them into the Promised Land, but then he warned them that the Jews’ hold on the land was being threatened by those attacking nations whose goal was to drive them out. Jehoshaphat ends with memorable words:

Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2nd Chronicles 20:12)

There are situations when we don’t know what to do and so the only wise thing to do is to lift our eyes to God. We next meet a fourth prophet to Judah, a man named Jahaziel, who spoke words of courage.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” (2nd Chronicles 20:13-17)

Jahaziel spoke words of encouragement. Encouraged, Jehoshaphat then led his people in saying that beloved refrain, which we will say:

      “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

What happened next was that God arranged for the Ammonite and Moabite armies to rise up against the army from Mount Seir – and they ended up destroying one another, another mighty miracle of God’s.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. (2nd Chronicles 20:24)

The writer of 2nd Chronicles finishes his record of Jehoshaphat’s reign with that typical concluding formula he often used about almost every king: he was a good king, but he failed in that he did not remove the high places of pagan worship in the land, etc. But then, the writer tells of one last scene in Jehoshaphat’s life, when he again enters into an unwise alliance with the king of Israel, a scene in which we meet the 5th of God’s prophets to Judah, Eliezer:

Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, whose ways were wicked. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)

So, what lessons can we take away from the passages we have read?

  1. Sometimes God actively thwarts the plans of humans when they do not honour Him.

Though Jehoshaphat was credited with doing the right things when he walked in the ways of King David and his father Asa, his weakness of being a people-pleaser was noted with disapproval. As a result, God did not honour or work with all of his plans. Jehoshaphat’s high points of faith in the LORD were weakened each time he failed to trust in the LORD. God wants us to be completely faithful and trusting in Him.

  1. The results of spiritual vacillation are usually very bad.

This was true in Jehoshaphat’s life for the negative effects of his vacillating about serving the Lord we will see next week in their lives of his successors. Vacillating in serving/trusting God – don’t do it!

  1. From the fact that God sent His prophets to the kings of Judah in both good times and bad, we learn that God is faithful in always attempting to bring us back to Him.

When King Jehoshaphat declared to his nation, and the surrounding nations, that he and his people of Judah would serve only YHWH God, things went well for them. But, when he was weak and vacillating, troubles arose. But God is faithful at all times, so let’s, one more time, say the popular refrain of faith that Jehoshaphat and the Jews said:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

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