The Chronicler tells us much more here about Jehoshaphat than we were told in the equivalent parts of 1 Kings. That’s probably in part because the writer there was more concerned with the dreadful king Ahab of Israel, where the Chronicler concentrates much more on Judah. What’s more, Jehoshaphat gets an almost clean slate of approval from the Chronicler as a faithful king who walked in the ways of the LORD.
One of the things I noted when looking back on the books of the Kings is that there, the stress was so much on how far the kings obeyed the commands to worship at Jerusalem that we didn’t find out much about how concerned they were with other matters of rule and government. So it’s good to read in 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 of Jehoshaphat’s reforms of the legal system. He establishes principles of fair justice, based on judges who know that they act on the LORD’s behalf. This is a huge responsibility, and (provided the judges are faithful to start with!) a powerful incentive to fairness. This should surely earn for Jehoshaphat at least some of the praise he is given!
The other side of his character which is shown to be worthy is his prayer for the nation. Faced with attack, ‘he set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.’ (20:3) He then leads the people in prayer himself. As we’ve seen before, his prayer is founded on God’s faithfulness to ‘the descendants of your friend Abraham’ (20:7) – a beautiful phrase. The king has called on his judges to act on behalf of a just God. He himself rules on behalf of the same God, and knows where his security lies – not in the size of his army but in the faithfulness and power of his God. The strength of his example draws the nation with him into prayer, and they are saved.
He’s not perfect – but his focus on God as the final authority in the nation clearly gave him wisdom and gave his people a good king.
I pray that our leaders might learn from him!