Are children more likely to learn from their parents’ mistakes or to simply repeat them? In the lives of the people in the Bible, we find that the effects of parental examples are powerful and long-lasting. For much of his life, Jehoshaphat seems to have been a son who learned from his father Asa’s mistakes and followed his positive actions. But on several occasions, his decisions reveal the negative aspects of his father’s example.
When the challenges were obvious, like the need for religious education of the people or the threat of war with a vast army, Jehoshaphat turned to God for guidance and made the right choices. His dependence on God was consistent when the odds were clearly against him. It was in depending on God for the day-to-day plans and actions that Jehoshaphat was weak. He allowed his son to marry Athaliah, the daughter of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel of Israel, who did her best to be as evil as her parents. Jehoshaphat was almost killed when, without asking God, he made an alliance with Ahab. Later, he became involved in an unwise shipbuilding venture with Ahab’s son, Ahaziah – a venture that was shipwrecked by God.
God’s faithfulness when the issues are clear and the enemy overwhelming is more than enough reason to seek his guidance when the issues are unclear and the enemy unseen. Jehoshaphat knew this, yet he made little use of that knowledge.
We repeat Jehoshaphat’s error when we relegate God to the background in the “easy” decisions of life. Then, when things get out of hand, we want him to get us out of the mess we got ourselves into. God wants us to give him not only the major decisions, but also our daily lives – – the things we are most often fooled into believing we can control. Perhaps there is nothing major facing you today. Have you paused long enough to give your day to God anyway?
Strengths and accomplishments:
- A bold follower of God, he reminded the people of the early years of his father, Asa
- Carried out a national programme of religious education
- Had many military victories
- Developed an extensive legal structure throughout the kingdom
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Failed to recognise the long-term results of his decisions
- Did not completely destroy idolatry in the land
- Became entangled with evil King Ahab through alliances
- Allowed his son Jehoram to marry Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter
- Became Ahaziah’s business partner in an ill-fated shipping venture
- Where: Jerusalem
- Occupation: King of Judah
- Relatives: Father: Asa. Mother: Azubah. Son: Jehoram. Daughter-in-law: Athaliah
- Contemporaries: Ahab, Jezebel, Micaiah, Ahaziah, Jehu
Key verses: “He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 20:32, 33).
Jehoshaphat’s story is told in 1 Kings 15:24-22:50 and 2 Chronicles 17:1-21:11. He is also mentioned in 2 Kings 3:1-14 and Joel 3:2, 12.