“Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not” (1 Kings 22:49).
Well done, Jehoshaphat! At last he had learned to say “No.” He had trifled far too long in his unholy alliance with Ahab—an alliance for which he had already paid dearly; but now, as a burnt child dreads the fire, so he declines the request of Ahab’s son, that their servants should make common cause in a voyage to Ophir. “Jehoshaphat would not.”
That signified power, and bore the stamp of reality. Association with evident unfaithfulness is, of necessity, a spring of constant weakness and defeat; and Jehoshaphat had learned his lesson, for a time, at least. If he needed the gold of Ophir, he must undertake the enterprise single-handed; he cannot allow his ships to carry a motley and an inharmonious crew. The servants whom he sends must obey one master, and the gold they bring home must belong to one claimant, otherwise all is confusion.
Now, this may seem narrow, and to the natural mind it would appear foolish. If these ships were manned by Ahab’s servants, as well as Jehoshaphat’s, the crews would be doubled. With such strength the golden spoils would be largely increased, and the wealth of each kingdom immensely enhanced. Jehoshaphat no doubt felt the truth of this, but yet he “would not.” He had solid reasons for refusing the help of these men. He had learned the somewhat difficult lesson—difficult, at any rate, in practice—that “evil communications corrupt good manners;” and having already been corrupted, and his royal manners and spiritual bearing having already been sorely humbled, he now curtly and firmly declines the offer.
Oh, how fond man is of crowding all kinds of servants into the ships, no matter who or what they may be, so long only as they are “servants,” as though the more in number the better; as though it were of no moment whether they served Ahab or Jehoshaphat, mammon or God; as though it were merely a question of work to be done, irrespective of consequences or results! But this will not do. Faith desires quantity—unbounded quantity—but it looks primarily for quality. The whole is made up of parts, and if the parts are rotten, so is the whole; if the parts are sound, so is the whole. Hence, spite of the cry, of the day for grand results and mighty works, and crowded ships and rich, golden stores, let faith make her discriminating selection of the mode in which this gold is to be acquired.
If the day wishes amalgamation and the employment of any kind of material for the accomplishment of the word of God, let faith firmly refuse alliance with the world for that end. God’s servants, and they alone, must man God’s ships—those who, by His grace, are worthy of that distinction; those who, first His children by faith in Christ Jesus, and indwelt by His Spirit, are free, in the blessed knowledge of conscious salvation, and truly separate in heart and life from the ways, habits, and principles of the world, to take up the sacred and delicate work of the Lord, to man His ships, and fetch His gold from Ophir.
Jehoshaphat wanted his own men to man his own vessels; Christ wants His own servants to do His own work. He wishes not to have that work spoiled, tarnished, ruined by the defiling touch of the “men of the world”—men who may be educated, cultured, and “ordained,” but still “men of the world;” nay, nor even by those who, though not such, are nevertheless marked by the world’s ways, and who are accordingly, and in proportion to their worldly association, morally unfitted to accomplish that work.
The one pre-requisite for that which is par excellence the work of Christ is absolute disconnection from the world’s religion, from all profession of Christianity that goes down with and can be accepted by the world. Get to know what Christ’s ship is, and you will readily apprehend the incongruity of having for assistants the servants of Ahab on board.
Neither can two walk together, nor sail together, nor work together, nor worship together, “except they be agreed;” and if you say that on such conditions there can be no fellowship at all, it but proves that you have never resolved at all cost to find the truth, and, having found it, to put it into practice.
Did the servants of Jehoshaphat presume to say that it was necessary for them to have those of Ahab with them? Never. Jehoshaphat’s men were equal to Jehoshaphat’s work; if their royal master deigned to send them, they were glad to go, and, whether few or many, popular or otherwise, they had the sense of being the king’s servants. This sufficed.
The entire mission was peculiarly regal—king’s servants manned the king’s ships to fetch the king’s gold, and a stranger might not intermeddle. A little devotedness of heart to our earth-rejected Jesus will make all this plain enough; but when the heart seeks to please the world that hated Him, and follow in its religious ways, and receive its honeyed plaudits, then such loyalty of life will be unsought and uncared for.
But His word is still divinely true—“If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and … him will My Father honour” (John 12:26).