Jehoshaphat is generally regarded as one of the great Kings of the Old Testament. The fourth king of the Kingdom of Judah, and successor of his father, Asa, when Jehoshaphat took the throne at 35 years old, he spent the first years of his reign fortifying his kingdom against the Kingdom of Israel. Especially of note is his dedication to returning the kingdom to the worship of the one true God.
His father Asa, had come to power and began his reign much the same way. He cleaned up the land and tore down the altars of strange gods, any high places dedicated to some other god, broke down the images, and he cut down the groves.
But somewhere between Asa cleaning up the kingdom, and Jehoshaphat coming to power, those things had crept back in, so Jehoshaphat had to go back and do the same thing all over again. He was a little more zealous than even his father. He drove out all the prostitutes and sodomites, broke down the altars, and he too cut down the groves. But then, Jehoshaphat sent out his princes to teach the law to the people.
There’s an important principle there, unrelated to the central message of this article: it’s not enough to just clean up the appearance of evil, as Asa did. It’s not enough to tear down the groves and the altars we erect in our hearts if we don’t replace them with what is right. When we tear down altars to false gods, we must replace them with altars to the true God. In fact, when Jehoshaphat and his princes began to teach the law in Judah, the Bible tells us the fear of the Lord fell on the countries around them. There is expanding influence in our ministries when we build up the right things in addition to tearing down the harmful.
Who was Jehoshaphat?
“And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, 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 stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour 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)
Jehoshaphat built castles and storehouses, and had much business in Judah. So much so that the men of valor and mighty men gathered close to him—hundreds of thousands of warriors wanted to align themselves with this good man. In fact, most are familiar with Jehoshaphat’s victory over the Moabite alliance which was only possible because of this Divine favor he operated in by building up the law of God in the hearts of the people.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s one of the greatest military victories not just of the Bible, but of all time. The Moabites and Ammonites came against Judah, having them vastly outnumbered and surrounded, and everyone in Judah was afraid. So Jehoshaphat calls a fast, and everyone draws together to pray. In dramatic moment at the climax of their uncertainty, Jehoshaphat stands to lead them in prayer:
“…O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation; And he said , Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:6-17)
Sure enough, as they go out the next day to the watchtower, they survey the situation and all that can be seen is the dead bodies of their enemies. A mighty victory was won for Judah, for Israel, and for God that day because they trusted in God to give them the victory.
Jehoshaphat’s Strange End
If you continue to read the rest of 2 Chronicles 20, however, you’ll come across a strange ending to Jehoshaphat’s reign that is rarely talked about. Everyone preaches about Jehoshaphat versus the Moabites, but nobody talks about the naval defeat that ended Jehoshaphat’s reign.
“And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:35-37).
There are few things as tragic to think about, perhaps, than a ship that never sails. A ship which was built for great adventure on the high seas; a beautiful vessel designed and built to cut through the water, catching the wind in its sails, and forging forward to a location otherwise unreachable. But Jehoshaphat’s ships were doomed before they ever left port.
As we make our plans and goals for 2017, I want to share with you three things you can do to guarantee your ships—those goals and dreams you’re envisioning now—will never sail:
1. Compare yourself with others
Jehoshaphat was blessed beyond what most men could ever imagine. I’ve already detailed his riches and his military might, and the fact that he had God looking out for him and granting him victory in the face of sure defeat. And yet, all this was apparently not enough for Jehoshaphat.
It is the curse of leaders, many times, to compare themselves against previous administrations and leadership. And you get caught up in this game of trying to leave a legacy that’s a little greater than those before you.
Every president has wanted his legacy to be peace in the Middle East. None more so, in recent years, than President Clinton. Yet, for all the talks he held with Sharon and Arafat, he couldn’t pull it off. Secretary of State John Kerry had designs on the same thing—everyone wants to be “the one.” But it usually ends poorly.
Of Kerry’s efforts, Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli Defense secretary said, “Secretary of State John Kerry came here very determined and operates based upon an unfathomable obsession and a messianic feeling. Throughout the recent months, there is no negotiation between us and the Palestinians, but rather, between us and the Americans. The only thing that can ‘save’ us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel Peace Prize and leave us alone.”
1 Kings 9:28 tells about a previous king who had built ships and sailed them to fortune in a foreign land:
“And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.”
Jehoshaphat, as great as he was, appears to have been feeling insignificant when placed next to the greatness of Solomon and all his riches. Jehoshaphat probably knew that Solomon had built ships and sailed to Ophir to fetch gold from there—about $150 million worth—and sailed back.
“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Want to guarantee your ship never sails? Judge your successes or failures by someone else’s.
God told Jeremiah, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” When I read the end of Jehoshaphat’s story, it’s definitely unexpected. Don’t allow the great vessels of destiny that God is placing in your heart and spirit to be destroyed and broken apart before He is able to breathe into your sails. Avoid comparing yourself.
2. Align Yourself with Ungodly People
God’s timing can be frustrating. Jehoshaphat was about 60 years old and probably had a sense that his reign was ending. I’m sure he felt the need to do something dramatic to see his reign end the way he wanted it to. So he allied himself with an ungodly ruler with no sense of right or wrong. Ahaziah was the son of Ahab and Jezebel—a wicked man who didn’t know or fear God, and the woman that controlled him. Ahaziah convinced Jehoshaphat to partner with him to build a fleet of ships that would sail to Tarshish and bring back gold.
Do you want your life to be a ship that never sails? Then be sure to align yourself with ungodly people, and listen to their advice.
See, Judah didn’t need any gold. The treasuries were so full Jehoshaphat had to build new ones just store the overlow in. But you know who did need gold? Ahaziah. Be careful when you take the advice of ungodly friends or associates. Many times they’re looking out for their own interests, not yours—and certainly not God’s.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (1 Corinthians 6:14)
3. Take shortcuts to get ahead
Jehoshaphat would have needed no help in building a navy if that’s what he wanted to do. He had plenty of resources, and he had plenty of opportunity—what he didn’t have, likely, was time. I want to be careful here, because the Bible doesn’t tell us explicitly why he joined with Ahaziah. But let me tell you what he didn’t do—he didn’t consult with someone who knew the sea.
Let’s go back, quickly, to Solomon’s successful voyage to Ophir in 1 Kings 9:26-28:
“King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men–sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.”
See, Solomon had also formed an alliance, his with King Hiram. Hiram benefited from this alliance, but he also had something that Solomon didn’t have access to—sailors who knew the sea.
There are no shortcuts in life. You might be able to get extra hands to help build your ship, and you might be able to put a vessel in the water, but there’s no shortcut for experience.
You need to be in communication with someone who knows the sea. You need to spend some time with experienced seafarers. There are no shortcuts. May I recommend to you, as you formalize your goals and plans for 2017, that you spend some time with Someone who knows the sea so well He was able to walk on it? The only way your ships will launch into your destiny with their sails intact is to rely on the One who is intimately aware of the right routes, and all the dangerous areas that will destroy your ship, because He’s the one who made them!
Whatever plans and processes and steps you’re taking as you formulate a successful new year, make sure you don’t take shortcuts around prayer, fasting, and the study of God’s Word. If you’ll compare yourself only to His purpose for you, align yourself only with His anointed men and women, and if you’ll avoid the pitfall of shortcuts, 2017 will be a year of adventure and reward on the high seas of His destiny for you!