1 Kings 22:2-50
And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.…
In Ahab we have an instance of a wicked man partially reclaimed, frequently arrested, but yet finally hardened in his iniquity. In Jehoshaphat, again, we have a still more affecting example. We see how a man, upright before God, and sincere in serving Him, may be betrayed into weak compliances; and how dangerous and melancholy the consequences of these compliances may be. The general uprightness of Jehoshaphat, his sincerity in serving God, is expressly acknowledged and commended by the prophet in the very act of condemning his sin (ver. 3). The 17th chapter of Second Chronicles gives an account of his piety and zeal at the beginning of his reign, and before the event to which the prophet refers; and the 19th and 20th chapters prove the continuance of these excellent dispositions, even after that most sad and untoward occurrence. Such a prince, we might naturally imagine, opposed to all corruption in the worship of God, would be especially studious to keep himself and his people separate from the heathenism and idolatry of the adjoining kingdom of Israel. He could have no sympathy with the spirit which animated that kingdom under the auspices of the infamous Jezebel — no toleration for the abuses which prevailed after she had secured the open establishment of the very worst form of paganism. Yet, strange to tell, the besetting sin of this good man was a tendency to connect himself with idolaters. The single fault charged against this godly prince is his frequent alliance with his ungodly neighbours. Thus, in the first place, Jehoshaphat consented to a treaty of marriage, probably at the beginning of his reign (2 Chronicles 17:1). He "joined affinity with Ahab" by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter (2 Kings 8:18). This was the first overture towards an alliance. Then, secondly, Jehoshaphat twice joined in a league of war with the King of Israel; first, in the expedition against Syria which we have been considering; and again, shortly after an attack upon the Moabites (2 Kings 3:7). Lastly, in the third place, Jehoshaphat consented, though reluctantly, in the close of his reign, to a commercial alliance of his people with the ten tribes. As to the sin itself with which Jehoshaphat is charged, and the probable reasons or motives of its commission, — we cannot suppose that, in forming an alliance with the. ungodly, Jehoshaphat was actuated by fondness for the crime, or by complacency in the criminal. We must seek an explanation of his conduct rather in mistaken views of policy than in any considerable indifference to the honour of God, or any leaning to the defections of apostasy and idolatry. For this end, let us consider the relative situation of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and the feelings which their respective kings, with their subjects, mutually cherished towards one another. The first effect of Jeroboam's revolt with the ten tribes from the house of David, was a bitter and irreconcilable hostility between the two rival kingdoms of the ten, and of the two tribes. And, as if to widen and perpetuate the breach, each party in turn had recourse to the expedient of calling in foreign aid against the other. At the instigation probably of Jeroboam, Shishak, King of Egypt, who had formerly been his patron and protector, invaded Judah. And again, by way of retaliation, the King of Judah soon after invited the Syrians to ravage the territory of the hostile kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 12. and 16.). In course of time, however, when a generation or two passed away, something like a change, or a tendency to approximation, began to appear. The feelings of hostility had in some degree subsided, the memory of former union had revived, and the idea might again not unnaturally suggest itself to a wise and patriotic statesman, of consolidating once more into a powerful empire communities which, although recently estranged, had yet a common origin, a common history, a common name, and, till lately, a common faith, — whose old recollections and associations were all in common. The manifest folly, too, of exposing themselves, by intestine division, to foreign invasion, and even employing foreigners against each other, might prompt the desire of bringing the kingdoms to act harmoniously together, whether in peace or in war. Such might very reasonably be the views of an able, enlightened, and conscientious sovereign, pursuing simply, in a sense, the good of his country; and such, probably, were the views of Jehoshaphat. His favourite aim and design seems to have been, to conciliate the king and people of Israel; at least, he was always ready to listen to any proposals of conciliation. Nay, we may believe that this good man proposed, by the course which he adopted, to leaven them with the spirit of a better faith, and ultimately bring them back again to the legitimate dominion of the house of David, and the pure worship of the God of their fathers. If so, his object was certainly not unlawful; but in the pursuit of it, he was tempted to an unlawful compromise of principle. In his anxiety to pacify, to conciliate, and to reclaim, he was tempted to go a little too far, — even to the sacrificing of his own high integrity, and the apparent countenancing of other men's iniquities. And is not this the very sin of many good and serious Christians, who manifest to the world, its follies and its vices, a certain mild and tolerant spirit, and are disposed to treat the men of the world with a sort of easy and indulgent complacency; justifying or excusing such concessions to themselves by the fond persuasion, that they are but seeking, or at least that they are promoting, the world's reformation? No doubt, it is your duty to conciliate all men, if you can; but there is such a thing as conciliating, and conciliating, and conciliating, till you conciliate away all the distinctive characteristics of your faith.
1. Thus, as to the first point, Jehoshaphat, when he consented to an alliance with the King of Israel, no doubt contemplated the possibility of doing him some good. Such was his hope. How in point of fact was it realised? He has descended from his footing of unquestioned and uncompromised integrity, and involved himself irretrievably in the very course he should be rebuking. And so it must ever be. The very first step a good man takes from the eminence on which he stands apart, as the friend of God and the unflinching enemy of all ungodliness in the world, he compromises his authority, his influence, his right and power of bold remonstrance and unsparing testimony against the corrupt lusts and the angry passions of men. He gives up the point of principle, and as to any resistance that he may make in details, men see not what there is left to fight for. Is not this the natural, the necessary result of such a conciliatory course? If you condescend to flatter men in their vanities, will they listen to you when you gravely reprehend their sins? No; they will laugh you to scorn. If you countenance them in the beginning of their excess, will they patiently bear your authoritative denunciation of its end? No; they will contemptuously reject it as a fond folly, or indignantly resent it as an insult. If you go with them one mile, may they not almost expect you to go two? — at least, you have no right to take it very much amiss if they go the two miles themselves.
2. But, in the second place, Jehoshaphat not only failed to arrest Ahab in his sinful course — he was himself involved in its sinfulness. Instead of reclaiming this wicked prince, he was himself betrayed into a participation in his wickedness he joined him in his unholy expedition. And be sure, we say to all professing Christians, that you too, if you try thus artfully to gain the advantage over the world, will find the world too much for you. For Satan, the god of this world, is far more than a match for you in this game of craft, and compromise, and conciliation. Beware how you step out of your own proper sphere, as a separate and peculiar people. Then go not along with them at all — no, not a single step: for a single step implies tampering, in so far, with your religious and conscientious scruples; and when these are once weakly or wilfully compromised, Satan's battle is gained. The rest is all a question of time and of degree. Stand fast, then, in your liberty. "All things are lawful unto you, but all things are not expedient." Be not yourselves "brought under the power of any"; and consider what may "edify" the Church and glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 10:23), Stand fast in your integrity.
3. For, thirdly, see what hazard Jehoshaphat ran. Not only did he sin with Ahab, but he was on the point of perishing with him in his sin. The King of Judah was saved himself, as by fire; but his ally, his confederate, was lost. And had he no hand, had he no concern, in the loss? Had he honestly remonstrated with him? Had he fearlessly protested against him, and sharply rebuked and withstood him? Oh! such wounds would have been kind and precious. But he had been too merciful; he had been pitiful, falsely pitiful, — what a thought is this, that, in making flattering advances to sinners, and dealing smoothly with their sins, you not only endanger your own peace, but you accelerate and promote their ruin! You may save yourselves by tardy yet, timely repentance; you may extricate yourselves ere it be too late; — but can you save, can you extricate those whom your example has encouraged, or your presence has authorised?
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.