After the Lord defeated the false god Baal and his prophets on Mount Carmel, He graciously gave King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom a victory against an invading army from the north. But soon afterwards, Ahab and Jezebel were up to their old tricks again.
Ahab tried and failed to steal a vineyard away from a man who had had it in his family for generations, so Jezebel set the owner up to be falsely accused, then killed. She told Ahab to go claim the man’s vineyard, and quite pleased, he went to do so.
But God was upset with what He saw and also sent Elijah to meet Ahab at the vineyard. He told Ahab there that Ahab’s and Jezebel’s time on earth was coming 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 God, and Judah was becoming richer and more powerful under his leadership. Then he did what so many others had done before him – he made a foolish alliance through marriage. And as it so often does, this led to a very precarious situation for Jehoshaphat – while visiting in the north, he was led into joining 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 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 coming 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 did, Ahab threw him in jail, and the battle was on.
Good old Ahab – he knew he was a personal target of the King of Syria, so he suggested that Jehoshaphat go into battle in his robes, while he stayed disguised as a common soldier.
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 are you thinking going along with this?” would have been another appropriate question. Ahab was setting him up to take the fall just in case the prophet was correct. The armies of Syria had been told to kill the king, so naturally they would go after the person in the fancy chariot wearing the regal robes.
As it turned out, God was with Jehoshaphat despite his unwise choices. At the last moment, 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 they were being defeated.
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 lived to face another day, but King Ahab did not. A “lucky” arrow shot had taken him out, and he slowly died as he watched his army suffer defeat. Half of Elijah’s prophecy against Ahab and Jezebel was now fulfilled. The rest would come later.
It is good to review our own relationships and ties with others to look for “incautious alliances”.
Psalm 1 reminds us not to take counsel from people who are actively going against the Lord, nor to spend a lot of free time with those who go out of their way to live a sinful and scornful life. And like Jehoshaphat, we want to carefully consider and pray before making personal alliances with anyone.
We are all sinners, each and every one of us. But if we are seeking to follow the Lord, we turn to Him for forgiveness when we fail, and try to do better the next time.
If we spend our free time with people who openly defy God, we are eventually going to end up more like them and less like God. As someone has said, “if you hang around a barber shop long enough, you are going to get a haircut”.
Lord, help us optimize our time with scoffers so that we can help point them to You without being pulled away from You in the process. Help us to always honor You with our thoughts, words and actions. Guard us and help us to avoid unwise or incautious alliances. Lead us, guide us and protect us as we seek to live a life that follows and respects You. and to shine your Light into a lost and broken world.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.