If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20.9–12)"Our eyes are on you." In circumstances that led many kings to look horizontally and find security in treaties with other nations, Jehoshaphat's vertical gaze strengthened his courage and pulled him through. His example to leaders is rare and stirring.
If you need a fresh picture of humble, God-centered leadership, study his biography in 2 Chronicles 17 through 20. A few observations from his life have provided a great framework to evaluate my heart as leader.
Jehoshaphat put God first, intentionally diverting his focus from idols.
The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. (2 Chronicles 17.3–6)Jehoshaphat cultivated a life of seeking his security in "the God of his father." This consistent pattern of living developed a firm confidence in God that became foundation of his courage.
Jehoshaphat worked to make the Word of God the preeminent word among his people.
In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. (2 Chronicles 17.7–9)Jehoshaphat wasn't looking for "yes men" to fabricate the approval of the LORD.
And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.” Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (2 Chronicles 18.4–6)Second Chronicles 18 is one of the funniest chapters in the Bible and the contrast between Ahab and Jehoshaphat is very revealing. Here we see that great leaders value the word of the Lord over their own ideas or reputation.
Jehoshaphat pursued God through failure and punishment. He took his licks, without shifting the blame or crying "Unfair!" and continued to love and serve his God.
Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asherahs out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.” Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 19.1–4)The absence of a painful lament or a plunge into deeper rebellion is conspicuous here. Jehoshaphat understood his own sin. He remained confident in the greatness of God and humanity's need for him even after receiving word of God's discipline.
Jehoshaphat boldly charged men to seek justice in a fear of the Lord.
He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” (2 Chronicles 19.5–7)Jehoshaphat sought the LORD in times of fear.
"...we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20.12)Jehoshaphat valued worship over victory.
Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.Jehoshaphat rose early before the battle in 2 Chronicles 20, not to fortify his position but to pour out his heart to God in worship... before he had any sense of the results. To Jehoshaphat, God was glorious regardless of the circumstances.
And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”(2 Chronicles 20.18–21)
Oh how the church needs men and leaders with Jehoshaphat's vertical gaze and steady confidence in God! For the good of the world and the glory of God, ask and pray for men with this humility, focus and passion to lead Christ's church. Beg him to be one yourself.
Good Leaders Actually Finish (featuring video from Matt Chandler)