Gold! It was to be Jehoshaphat’s great enterprise - a large fleet of ocean-going ships to bring back the gold of Ophir, just as Solomon had done a century before.
The fleet set out from Eziongeber, the port where they were built, bound for Tarshish. As soon as they sailed out, they were broken to pieces against the rocks near the harbour, ‘which stood up like a man's backbone.’
So why the disaster? His enterprise was shattered due to an unholy alliance with the wicked King Ahaziah.
“After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.” (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)
After the wreckage, it appears as though Ahaziah wanted to get the project going again, but Jehoshaphat would not (1 Kings 22:49) The prophet Eliezer had told the king that God had destroyed the ships because of his alliance with Ahaziah. It often takes the direct intervention by God into our lives to get our attention. His decision to partnership with Ahaziah was not wise.
Jehoshaphat made an unholy alliance with Ahaziah’s very wicked father Ahab, when he "had riches and honour in abundance." (2 Chronicles 18.1) Perhaps Jehoshaphat’s wealth went to his head, eroding his determination to remain distinct from the northern kingdom, so leading to his alliance with Ahab through the marriage of his son, Jehoram, to Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. (2 Chronicles 21.6; 22.2)
I wrote about Ahab and his wife Jezebel, in an earlier blog in this series.
Jehoshaphat seemed to want an insurance policy in case the Lord failed him. While marriage alliances were a common way to forge peace between countries at odds with each other, this pact was an unholy union. Ahab and Jezebel were evil. They practiced paganism, flooded the land with Baal worship, and almost obliterated the worship of Jehovah from Israel.
Jehoshaphat should have known better. He made the monumental error of relying on the world’s wisdom instead of God’s. Years later, Athaliah usurped the throne of Judah and murdered all the heirs to the throne but one, almost annihilating the messianic line, before being killed herself.
In another monumental error, Jehoshaphat agreed to join Ahab in battle against Ramoth Gilead. When he sought counsel as to how the battle would go, Ahab produced 400 “prophets,” all of whom probably served Baal and all of whom promised victory. (you can read the story in 1 Kings 22)
The 400 prophets predict that they should go out to war for they will be successful
Recognizing these men did not serve the living God, Jehoshaphat did well by asking, “Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?” Ahab grudgingly mentioned Micaiah, adding, “but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” Micaiah predicted that Ahab would be killed.
Jehoshaphat goes forward with the plan, despite the advice of the man of God. After all it was 400 to 1! He went into battle. The enemy all came after Jehoshaphat, and he barely escaped death. God intervened to help him. Ahab, just as Micaiah had prophesied, was killed.
Finally, Jehoshaphat slinked back to Jerusalem, humiliated by his bad decision.
1. Listen to godly advice Worldly advice will pressure us to conform, like Ahab did by bring out overwhelming odds of 400 to 1. Peer pressure is strong and will push us to stay in line. When the one adviser is brought to you by God, then 1 plus God is an overwhelming majority! A godly counsellor loves the Lord, knows the Scriptures and the importance of prayer. The Proverbs are filled with the importance of counsel, such as; “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15) “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22
2. Do not enter into unequal partnerships The great danger is the temptation to compromise your faith, like Jehoshaphat did with Ahab. Jehoshaphat did not learn from his disastrous alliance with Ahab or from his father’s alliance with Aram (2 Chronicles 16:2-9). The partnership stood on unequal footing because one man served the Lord and the other worshiped idols. We court disaster when we enter a partnership with unbelievers because our very foundations differ. While one serves the Lord, the other does not recognize God’s authority. Inevitably, the one who serves God is faced with the temptation to compromise values. When that happens, spiritual disaster results. Paul urges believers to not form partnerships with unbelievers because this might weaken their Christian commitment, integrity, or standards. It would be a mismatch. (2 Corinthians 6:15) Earlier, Paul had explained that this did not mean isolating oneself from unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10). He wanted believers to be active in their witness for Christ to unbelievers but not lock themselves into personal or business relationships that could cause them to compromise their faith. Believers should do everything in their power to avoid situations that could force them to divide their loyalties. 3. Be aware of the dangers of the world’s temptations The gold of Ophir was very tempting, but Jehoshaphat was rich already. He was tempted into a fatal expedition because he could not determine what was enough for him. He had to have more.
King Jehoshaphat walked in God’s ways and was generally seen as a faithful King. “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments. . . His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6.) He seemed to be really blessed by God. However, this good King made bad alliances.
Peter J. Briscoe