The narrative of King Jehoshaphat and King Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18 provides insight into the dynamics of peer pressure. When you or your children yield to peer pressure you are, in effect, dividing your loyalties between God and man. This double-mindedness simply does not work. It results in decision making that is not sound. Many sins that young people become entangled with begin when they yield to peer pressure. The story of King Jehoshaphat demonstrates that young people are not the only ones susceptible to this problem. As we noted in the last post, Jehoshaphat should have realized that forming an alliance with Ahab was extremely unwise, but in the face of the feast given to honor him, Jehoshaphat was more concerned with pleasing Ahab than pleasing God.The last post left off just after Jehoshaphat tells Ahab that he should not speak negatively about Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord. Again, here is another indicator that Jehoshaphat ignores. Ahab’s assessment of Micaiah, whom Ahab acknowledges to be God’s prophet, is that he only prophesies bad things regarding Ahab. Because of this, Ahab hates him. In fact, Ahab is showing hatred for God, since the prophet only speaks what God directs him to speak. Yet Jehoshaphat remains willing to follow Ahab into battle. Micaiah is asked the same question the other prophets were asked – should Ahab go into battle and attack Ramoth-Gilead? The prophet’s first response is loaded with sarcasm. He tells Ahab he will be victorious in battle. Ahab is aware of the sarcasm and makes the following astonishing statement in verse 15:
The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
Ahab freely acknowledges that Micaiah speaks for the Lord. Ahab’s frustrated response indicates that he and Micaiah have been down this road before. He then commands that the prophet tell him what God has really said. Finally, Micaiah predicts that Israel will be defeated in this battle (v. 16). Than Ahab turns to Jehoshaphat in a classic I told you so response.
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”
Ahab acknowledges that Micaiah is God’s spokesman. Yet when the prophecy is negative, he complains to Jehoshaphat that Micaiah only says bad things about him. There is no mention that the word of God has been spoken. Micaiah then goes on to say just how God intended to use this battle to bring about defeat for Ahab; again he issues the warning that Israel will lose the battle. Jehoshaphat heard all this, and yet, having done the religious thing by checking with a true prophet, he still maintains his loyalty to Ahab.
In one of the more stunning events in Scripture, verse 28 records the actions of Ahab and Jehoshaphat in response to Micaiah’s prophesy.
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.
After hearing from God, both men chose to ignore him. Ahab did so because he hated God and his ways. Jehoshaphat did so because he did not want to offend Ahab. To be sure, this is a case of misguided judgment. But wait, it gets worse. Ahab tells Jehoshaphat his plan. Ahab will dress like a common soldier and Jehoshaphat will wear the robes of a king into battle so that Ahab won’t be attacked. To this, Jehoshaphat says, okay I’m good with that and proceeds to go into battle wearing his royal robes.
This judgment is not only flawed, it is disastrous. Yet Jehoshaphat follows Ahab’s plan. Thus we see that divided loyalty is not really divided, it is following the ways of the enemy. In this instance, God is merciful to Jehoshaphat and spares his life despite his stupidity. This narrative is a powerful illustration of what happens when pleasing people becomes the most important thing. It is easy to think – how could Jehoshaphat have acted so foolishly??? But this is what happens to everyone when people become more important to us than God.
This is a story you can tell to your children when they are young and refer to again and again as they grow older. There is a straightforward warning here: it is amazing how foolish we can be when we lose sight of loving God and try to please people instead.