One of the more remarkable examples of peer pressure or fear of man found in the Bible is the story of Jehoshaphat and King Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18. The Spirit is God was gracious to provide such a clear and vivid account of the dynamics of peer pressure. There is much you can use in the chapter to teach your children about this all too common tendency of making the opinion of others more important than the opinion of God.
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began his reign by faithfully following God. He was blessed with riches and honor. However, chapter 18 records that instead of continuing to trust God for protection, he formed an alliance with King Ahab by marrying Ahab’s daughter. This would supposedly provide protection from those who might attack Judah from the north. Some years later, Jehoshaphat went down to Samaria, the capital of Israel, to visit Ahab. Ahab responded by throwing the equivalent of large party in honor of Jehoshaphat. Now Ahab stood for and practiced all of the things that Jehoshaphat had worked so diligently to remove from Judah. Note these words of commendation for Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:3-4:
The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.
But in this later time of his life, Jehoshaphat became enamored with the apparent lifestyle and success of one who lived as God’s enemy. When Jehoshaphat arrived in Samaria, Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join with him in battle against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat responded as if the kings were of one mind and heritage. He said, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.” This show of friendship to Ahab was in reality hatred towards God (2 Chronicles 19:1-2; James 4:4).
This kind of loyalty to men rather than to God clouds judgment and results in flawed decision making. This is an essential point to stress, both to yourself and your children. The balance of 2 Chronicles 18 is as clear an example of yielding to peer pressure as one could hope to find. The dialogue between Ahab and Jehoshaphat is both sad and comedic. It shows just how foolish we can be when we attempt to please people. Here is a brief sketch of the exchange:
Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to go with him into battle. Jehoshaphat agrees, but then he adds that they should first seek the counsel of the Lord. At first it seems that perhaps Jehoshaphat is having second thoughts about his pronouncement of loyalty to Ahab. But remember, Jehoshaphat has already compromised his loyalty to God by proclaiming his unity with wicked Ahab. As we shall see, this note of seeking God’s guidance is merely a matter of form.
Ahab then asks the 400 hundred prophets of Baal if he should go to battle. These prophets were not the Lord’s prophets, but Baal’s. They, of course, confirm that Ahab should go into battle with God’s blessing. Jehoshaphat still holds out for the right religious form. He asks is there not a prophet of the Lord that they can inquire of. Ahab then makes this stunning response:
“There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” Vs. 7
Even though Jehoshaphat rebukes Ahab for this observation, he still acts stupidly. Ahab has one prophet of the Lord available, but he hates him. His first choice is to seek counsel from the 400 prophets of Baal. What flawed judgment! Why does Jehoshaphat even consider going along with this imminent disaster? The answer is that he does not want to offend King Ahab, the man to whom he has pledged loyalty. Even holding out for Micaiah to come and prophesy is no indication of wholeheartedly trusting God. Jehoshaphat’s divided loyalty has already crippled his thinking.
We will finish this story in the next post. But use this intermission in the narrative to consider how quickly and easily loyalty to those who do not love God can corrupt your thinking.