After the Lord defeated the false god Baal and his prophets through the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, He graciously gave Baal-supporter King Ahab a victory against an invading army from the north. But soon afterwards, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were up to their evil tricks again.
Ahab tried and failed to steal a neighboring vineyard away from a man who had had it in his family for generations, so Jezebel set the owner up to be falsely accused and killed. Afterwards, she told a delighted Ahab to go, claim the man’s vineyard, and he left to go do so.
But God was very upset with what He saw happen, so He sent Elijah to meet Ahab at the vineyard. Elijah informed Ahab that both Ahab’s and Jezebel’s time on earth was about to come to an end, and that they would soon both be left to the dogs.
Meanwhile, in the Southern Kingdom, King Jehoshaphat was doing just the opposite of Ahab – he was serving the Lord, and Judah was becoming richer and more powerful under his leadership. Then he did what so many others have done – he made a foolish political alliance through marriage. And as so often happens, this led to a very precarious situation for Jehoshaphat. While visiting his new “relatives” in the north, he was talked into joining King Ahab in an unwise war against the King of Syria, in Ramoth Gilead.
1 Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab… 3 So Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?” And he answered him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will be with you in the war.” 2 Chronicles 18:1,3 (NKJV)
Belatedly, Jehoshaphat realized that he should at least consult with the Lord about it, but most of Ahab’s available prophets were false ones, and always made up positive and supportive things to tell the king. When Jehoshaphat persisted in wanting to hear what a real prophet of God had to say about the upcoming battle, Ahab reluctantly brought one in. But even then, this prophet was reluctant to tell the king that this would be his final battle, and that the battle would be lost. When he finally admitted it, Ahab threw him in jail for speaking against him, and the battle was on.
Good old Ahab – knowing he was a personal target of the King of Syria, he suggested that Jehoshaphat go into battle in regal robes, while Ahab would stay disguised as a common soldier. How thoughtful!
29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 30 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle; but you put on your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. 1 Kings 22:29-30 (NKJV)
At this point, God could have easily said to Jehoshaphat as He did to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” “What in the world are you thinking?” would have been another appropriate way to put it. King Ahab was setting him up to take the fall, just in case the prophet of God had been correct. The armies of Syria had been told to kill the king, so naturally they would go after the person in the regal chariot, wearing the fancy robes.
Of course, God knew, and was with Jehoshaphat despite his unwise choices. At the last moment, before killing Jehoshaphat, the leaders of the attacking Syrians realized that he was not King Ahab, and they let him escape unharmed. Meanwhile, the battle went badly against the Northern Kingdom, and as the prophet had warned, they were being defeated.
King Ahab watched throughout the day as the battle went against him. But he was not doing so in comfort.
34 Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” 35 The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. 1 Kings 22:34-35 (NKJV)
Jehoshaphat would live to face another day, but King Ahab would not. The “lucky” arrow shot had been divinely guided to take him out, and Ahab slowly died while watching his army suffer defeat. Half of Elijah’s prophecy against Ahab and Jezebel was now fulfilled. The rest would come in God’s time.
It is good to prayerfully review any relationships or ties we have made, or are about to make, looking for incautious alliances such as those that almost took the life of King Jehoshaphat.
Psalm 1 reminds us not to take counsel from people who are actively working against the Lord, nor to spend our free time with those who choose to live a sinful and scornful life. We are all sinners, each and every one of us. But if we have faith, we seek to follow the Lord, turning to Him for forgiveness when we fail, and seeking to make spiritual progress on our faith journey. Some we might align will discourage and oppose this.
If we choose to spend our free time with people who openly defy God, we are eventually going to end up more more and more like them, and less and less like God. As someone has said, “if you hang around a barber shop long enough, you are going to eventually get a haircut”.
Lord, help us optimize our time among spiritual scoffers so that we can help point them to You without being pulled away from You in the process. Empower us to always honor You in our thoughts, words, and actions. Guard and guide us to avoid unwise or incautious alliances. Lead and protect us as we seek to live a life that honors and respects You, and shine your Light into a lost and broken world. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.