Bible Readings for December 17th
As we have discussed over the previous two meditations, the reign of Jehoshaphat was a mixed bag. Sometimes he obeyed Yahweh, and sometimes he did not. So, while he had appointed the priests and the Levites to teach the law in 2 Chronicles 17, he also foolishly entered into a military alliance with the wicked King Ahab of Israel, for which he is rebuked in 2 Chronicles 19:2. In today’s reading, we see more of the same lurching between good and evil through the rest of Jehoshaphat’s life.
First, in 2 Chronicles 19:4–11, Jehoshaphat appoints judges throughout all the fortified cities in Judah, as well as priests and Levites who would remain in Jerusalem to judge the more difficult, disputed cases. This is a wise legal structure that Moses himself had set up at the suggestion of his father-in-law, Jethro, back in Exodus 18, and by reestablishing it, Jehoshaphat is seeking to ensure justice in Judah during his reign.
Second, when the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites come out in battle against Judah, Jehoshaphat lays out his case before Yahweh in prayer, asking Yahweh to protect his people (2 Chron. 20:5–12). Jehoshaphat prays a model prayer, citing Yahweh’s promises to hear his people when they pray to him before the temple, where Yahweh had put his name (2 Chron. 20:8–9; cf. 2 Chron. 7:11–22). What is extraordinary about this story, though, is that when Yahweh sends a prophetic word to Jehoshaphat through the prophet Jahaziel (one of the Levite sons of Asaph) to assure Jehoshaphat that Yahweh would give Judah victory in battle, Jehoshaphat marches out the next day in battle by placing his musicians and singers in front of the army. As they march, they sing, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chron. 20:21). When the people begin to sing, the armies fight against each other, leaving nothing but dead bodies and rich spoils of war for the people of Judah to enjoy (2 Chron. 20:24–30).
But third, we also read that Jehoshaphat, at the end of his life, enters into another wayward arrangement with King Ahaziah of Israel to build ships to go to Tarshish. Yahweh is not pleased with this second alliance with a wicked king, so he destroys the ships that the two kings made before they could disembark (2 Chron. 20:35–37).
In the life of Jehoshaphat, then, we see an obedience that can look very much like ours. Sometimes we follow Jesus into dark, difficult situations with joy and singing, while other times the same, besetting sins draw us back down again. Rather than giving up the fight, pray instead that God might grant you the grace of perseverance to finish the race well, following after Jesus faithfully all the days of your life.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.