The ruled and those ruling have a long history. Those oppressed by rulers groan, those with power too often wield it foolishly. King Jehoshaphat instituted two reforms worthy of note and demonstrated one act of desperation as war was upon him.
First, the king appointed judges in all of the fortified cities of Judah. He said:
“Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. 7 Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.” (19:6-7)
When kings rule well judges are appointed to represent God’s authority under which justice is administered. A judge’s dealings are meticulously before God’s gaze and the corruption of justice will not go unpunished. Only the fear of the LORD in these judges will assure they act justly, not wickedly. Note they must be men who can’t be bought, who are not partial, and who do righteousness.
Today it’s no different. Judges in power will give an account to God for how they have administered their sword of influence (lawyers too), for this power does not originate in man, but in the God of creation they are to mirror. Yet, when there’s no fear of the LORD, justice is aborted and perverted, folly is exalted, and equity is deplored. What an ominous thought. Oh God! may the judges in this nation judge righteously, may those in the three branches of government tremble with the power bestowed on them, and may the righteous truly shine.
Second, Levites and priests were also appointed to judge in Israel. The king warns these judges that the fear of the LORD, the law ordinances and statutes are to be faithfully upheld to avert God’s wrath and thus assure peace is in the land:
“8 In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, for the judgment of the Lord and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 9 Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and wholeheartedly. 10 Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the Lord, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty. 11 Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to the Lord, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and the Lord be with the upright.” (19:8-11)
The LORD is a God who loves justice to be done in the land and His people are to also love it. When a king rules well his main concern—along with the securing of borders—is for justice to be executed in the land. When this does not occur, the moral fabric of a people eventually deteriorates. The reason I think is unfortunately quite simple—as the leadership of a home, city or nation goes, so too do those who follow. People are deeply impacted in their behavior from what they see modeled more (it seems) from what they are “told to do”.
Third, when war was upon the king he cried out to the LORD God of his fathers:
“Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Moab and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).” 3 Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord.” (20:1-4)
His nation-wide fast and prayer is an illustration of desperation for divine aid that is utterly dependent on a positive response from God or else hope vanishes. It is an act of desperate measure appropriate for the occasion. The king rehearses in his prayer the covenant and its application of being in the land which was now being threatened. The word of the prophet assured Jehoshaphat that the battle belongs to the LORD God. The deliverance comes and worship is expressed led by the king:
8 They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying,9 ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.’ 10 Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), 11 see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” 13 All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children. (20:8-13)
Often I feel utterly doomed with the lack of resources in my life (even though I live in America) be they physical or spiritual, and I have the occasion to seek Him through prayer and fasting. May I seize those moments and not let them go to waste.