1 Kings 22:1-8
And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.…
According to the order of the chapters in the LXX., which is probably the original or true order, chapter 20. should immediately precede this. Then, after the history of the war between Ahab and Ben-hadad, this chapter opens naturally: "And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel." In the third year of this peace Jehoshaphat visited Ahab; and from this visit arose serious events, which are admonitory to us that we should avoid the company of the wicked.
I. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES CHARACTER.
1. It injures morals.
(1) The earlier career of Jehoshaphat was faultless. He is highly commended for his faithfulness to God and zeal against idolatry (2 Chronicles 17:1-6).
(2) His first fault was sanctioning the marriage of his son Jehoram with Athaliah the daughter of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 26).
(3) This led the way to the further fault of that friendly visit to Ahab mentioned here, for which he was rebuked by "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer" (2 Chronicles 19:2).
(4) Yet once again we find him falling into a similar snare. He agreed with Ahaziah the son of Ahab, a wicked scion of wicked house, jointly to equip a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Bed Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. In this also he incurred the anger of the Lord and suffered the loss of his fleet (ver. 48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Note: A fault is like a seed, fruitful "after its kind." A fault once committed prepares the way for a repetition.
2. It damages reputation.
(1) Reputation is character as estimated by men. This estimate may or may not be just; for men may judge wrongly through ignorance of circumstances which would put a new complexion upon conduct. Therefore judgments should be charitable, and not too hastily formed.
(2) But it is a maxim among men, generally true, that "you may know a man by his friends." Friendships involve sympathies. It had been better for Jehoshaphat's reputation had he never made affinity with the wicked house of Ahab.
(3) This principle will apply to books. Hence the kindred maxim, "You may see a man in his library." It is bad enough when the newspaper shuts up the Bible; it is worse when the Bible is neglected through preference for sensational fictitious literature.
3. It impairs influence.
(1) This follows. Character is influence. Reputation is influence. Advice will be readily received from a genuine man, which coming from an artificial character would be spurned.
(2) What a power for good or evil is moral influence! See the evil exemplified in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel. See the good in Judah under Jehoshaphat. Lessons: Let your character be true. Jealously guard your reputation. Look to these for the sake of your influence.
II. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES HAPPINESS. Because -
1. Happiness is involved in character.
(1) This truth is abundantly illustrated in sacred history. Examples are furnished in the text. Secular history teaches this truth. Everyday experience evinces it.
(2) Yet is it difficult so to convince individuals of this as to lead them to abandon sin and throw their energies wholly into the blessed service of God. Happiness is proportionate to the completeness of consecration. This consecration cannot be reconciled with the friendship of the world (James 4:4).
2. Goodness is grieved in it.
(1) Jehoshaphat was not long in the company of Ahab before his ear was offended by horrible words. "I hate him." Whom did Ahab hate? Micaiah, the faithful prophet of the Lord. Does not this look like a declaration of hatred against the Lord? (See Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Zechariah 2:8.)
(2) Why does Ahab hate Micaiah? "For he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." Because he does not falsify the truth of God to flatter me. Because he does not play the devil to please me, as these four hundred do! Note: Hatred to God means love to Satan.
(3) Such sentiments were distressing to the feelings of Jehoshaphat. To the revulsion of his righteous soul he gave expression (but too feeble) in the remonstrance, "Let not the king say so." The conversation of such as are in sympathy with evil will offend the good in proportion to their pureness.
3. It leads the most wary into trouble. For the persuasions of the wicked are subtle.
(1) In presence of Jehoshaphat "The king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?" It was a considerable city in the tribe of Gad on the other side Jordan, and one of the cities of refuge. It was one of the cities which Ben-hadad, by the letter of his covenant, was bound to restore (see 1 Kings 20:34). The cause of Israel was obviously just.
(2) Then turning to Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, "Wilt thou go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?" To which, carried away with the obvious justice of the cause, Jehoshaphat responded, "I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses." This was too strong a compliment to Ahab and his people, and the response was too ready. We may not champion every just cause. It may be wrong to champion a good cause in wicked company.
(3) Bethinking himself, as a godly man should do, "Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord." A good man seeks to take God with him, and so long as he abides in this holy company he is safe. But let him beware that he be not persuaded by the wicked to forsake it.
(4) Ahab was equal to the occasion. He had four hundred prophets ready with one mouth to pronounce for the war, and that, too, in the name of the Lord. This hireling company, however, did not satisfy Jehoshaphat, yet he fell into their snare. He should have availed himself of the opportunity to withdraw given him in the prophecy of Micaiah; but, under the spell of Ahab's evil influence, he went to the battle and got into trouble. There is no safety in the company of the wicked.
4. It provokes judgments of God.
(1) The good partake in the plagues of their wicked associates. Jehoshaphat barely escaped, through the mercy of God, with his life; and he suffered the loss of many of his people (see Revelation 18:4). The fly that keeps aloof is not entangled in the spider's web.
(2) The good incur Divine judgments for their own sin. The sin of friendship with the enemies of God. The sin such friendship must infallibly occasion. Such was the experience of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chronicles 19:2). Such will be yours. Avoid it. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.