We have seen in 1 Kings 17, 18, that Ahab and Jezebel worshipped the idol Baal, and now we read the judgments of God on Ahab and apostate Israel.
It is necessary for us to know the circumstances mentioned in this chapter, as they are of grave importance. Let us consider in it especially the characters of Jehoshaphat and Micaiah. This last was separated from Ahab and apostate Israel; he entered into God's thoughts and was declaring to Ahab and Israel the judgments which were ready to come upon them. Read verses 16-23. In verse 26 we see the consequences of his fidelity: Ahab and Israel are his enemies, and he is put into the place of affliction. Jehoshaphat's circumstances were very different; he was a child of God as well as Micaiah, but he was rich and great, and had made alliance with one of God's enemies - with Ahab. Ahab knew him to be a child of God, and, in order to tranquillise his conscience, caused sheep and oxen to be killed for him in abundance. It mattered not to Ahab what he did if he succeeded in persuading Jehoshaphat to go with him to Ramoth-Gilead. But Jehoshaphat's conscience was not satisfied by the sacrifice of all these sheep and oxen; and he said to the king of Israel, "Inquire, I pray thee at the word of Jehovah to-day." Ahab then assembled the four hundred and fifty prophets who cried, "Peace, peace," although God's judgment was ready to break over him and apostate Israel; but the words of these false prophets did not satisfy Jehoshaphat's conscience any more than the sacrifices. Thus it is ever so when the child of God is found in the midst of evil of any kind: although four hundred and fifty prophets and the whole world would seek to satisfy his conscience, they could not attain this end. See what is said of false prophets in Ezekiel 13:1-16.
But the king of Israel was satisfied with what the lying prophets said; and, as God punished Pharaoh by giving him up to a delusion, He did the same to Ahab. And the same thing will happen to many others at the end of this dispensation; men will preach "peace, peace," and judgment will break forth upon them (Rev. 16:14; 2 Thess. 2:7-13). Here is a solemn truth. This is why we ought first to be very grateful because the Lord has revealed Himself to us; then we ought to take care not to become like Jehoshaphat who "joined affinity with Ahab." How good the Lord was to put it into the king of Judah's heart to seek counsel of a prophet of Jehovah! It was a means by which he might have been instructed about the judgments which were going to happen, and have been able to warn his people. But alliance with evil blinds to such a degree, that Jehoshaphat did not discern that Micaiah was a true prophet of Jehovah; and he did not believe his word, but went in spite of it all up to the battle in which Ahab was to meet with the judgment of God. Oh may we be separated from evil in order to be capable of judging all things and to hold fast that which is truth!
15 We have also to remark Micaiah's faithfulness: although he was engaged by the messenger to speak the same words as the false prophets, he replied, "What my God saith, that will I speak," v. 12, 13. Micaiah told Ahab that he should be killed in the battle; but the latter, thinking to escape by his own prudence, disguised himself, and told Jehoshaphat to wear his robes (v. 27-30). Oh what a magnificent proof we have of the love of God in these verses! Jehoshaphat is surrounded by the Syrians on all sides, but he was a child of God; and although he had joined with Ahab, nothing could separate him from the Lord whose faithfulness to His own endures notwithstanding their unfaithfulness. Jehoshaphat cried to the Lord who became his protector; and although, humanly speaking, it seemed all over with him, nevertheless his enemies were not allowed to touch him.
But as surely as the child of God will be preserved by the love of his Father, so sure is it that the judgment of God will fall on those who reject His mercy. We see this in a remarkable manner in this chapter. Ahab, notwithstanding His precautions, could not escape; he might have disguised himself from the Syrians, but he was not able to hide himself from God (v. 33). Thus it is with poor sinners: even if they should succeed in not being seen by man, the eye of God will find them. May the Lord make this example of use to us!
It is well to consider how much more advantageous Micaiah's position was than that of Jehoshaphat. It is true he was afflicted and persecuted by Ahab and the false prophets, but he was not like Jehoshaphat to be found in the midst of God's judgments. The latter was as ignorant as Ahab of what was going to take place; be it that even Micaiah had announced it to them, and that these judgments were, as it were, suspended over their heads, yet Jehoshaphat did not expect them. And why? For he was a child of God as well as Micaiah. Had he. not the Lord's thought and a clear view of His intention? It was because he had joined himself to God's enemies and that his affections were with the things of the world, whilst Micaiah had separated himself to the service of God. Oh how ashamed Jehoshaphat ought to have been, to be thus found amongst the Lord's enemies! and how grateful he ought to have been for the gracious help which he so little merited!
16 We see in 2 Chronicles 19:2, that, although Jehoshaphat had been delivered by the compassion and love of God, he was spoken to in words of reproach, after which the Lord encouraged him by adding, "Nevertheless there are good things found in thee"; which shews us, that if God disapprove that which is evil, He owns the good which He has put into His own people. In Jude's Epistle, which speaks of the apostasy of the present dispensation, we see at verse 23 something similar to that which happened to Jehoshaphat. Like Lot, he was saved so as by fire.
All these circumstances in Jehoshaphat's life were calculated to humble him deeply and teach him the incomprehensible fulness of God's mercy. He ought to have drawn from these experiences deep instruction both about God and himself. Let us read in 2 Chronicles 20:2-13 what were the fruits of these instructions. Jehoshaphat is here very different; he is not now in affinity with Ahab, he is depending on God alone in whom is his strength and his joy. "Our eyes are on thee," he says to Jehovah. Will Micaiah be now separated from him as he was in the preceding chapter? Let us read from verse 15 to 18 of chapter 20. In the preceding chapter Jehoshaphat is found in the ranks of God's enemies, and he is only saved by the intervention of Jehovah; but here we see him dependent upon God and blessed, not afraid, and knowing that Jehovah is with him. He goes to the battle, and God orders it all in such a way that he has no anxiety (v. 17). What a precious lesson he had received in all this! And should we not be disposed to think that from this time forth he would keep near to God and in separation from His enemies? He had learnt by experience the grief there is in sin, and it seems impossible that he should fall again into the same fault which had brought him into such trouble; but we see in verses 35-38 that it was not so.
17 The lesson which we may take from the second fall of Jehoshaphat is that, although we may have been punished, we fall again into the very same sins if we do not keep in communion with the Lord.