I Kings 22:2-5 “And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. And 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? And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses. And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to day.”
Jehoshaphat came down to visit with Ahab, the king of Israel. While they were together in the midst of conversation, the subject of Ramoth in Gilead came up and the king of Israel wanted to know if Jehoshaphat would join him in an attempt to recapture the property. Jehoshaphat responded by saying, “Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to day” (vs.5). In other words, Jehoshaphat said, “Let’s ask Jehovah for His word on the matter.” When I consider the words of Jehoshaphat my first response is, “That’s the religious thing to do!” Please note that I didn’t say that it was the righteous thing to do, but the religious thing to do.
The response of Jehoshaphat is that of a religious man and not necessarily a righteous man! While it is a tough pill to swallow, the actions of Jehoshaphat are in many cases duplicated in our lives. We find ourselves doing religious things which may not necessarily be the righteous thing! The question that quickly surfaces is; “Isn’t seeking a word from God the mark of a righteous man?” The answer is “yes” and “no.” In this case the answer is “no!”
The actions of Jehoshaphat were religious rather than righteous because of its timing. When the conversation began and Jehoshaphat was asked to join in the venture with King Ahab, Jehoshaphat said, “I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.” Jehoshaphat committed to the union before he ever sought the Word of God. It was only after he committed to the venture that he did something religious, he prayed for God’s guidance. How many times have you sought God’s direction knowing full well that you had already determined your course of action? How many times has a pastor called the church to prayer knowing full well that the direction has already been determined? It makes us feel better about what we are doing if we do something religious; pray, read the Bible, or seek counsel from our pastor. The action could have been the mark of a righteous man if only we had done it before we committed to the course; now it’s just the evidence of religion and not righteousness!
The actions of Jehoshaphat were religious rather than righteous because of its trust. After getting God’s man to deliver the Word of the Lord; the outcome of this foolish venture is revealed. If they proceed in this venture, it means defeat for their troops and death for the King of Israel. God said, “I will not bless this venture.” Question; “Why ask God for direction if you don’t trust it enough to follow it?” What’s funny is that King that wanted to hear from God didn’t trust the word enough to not go and the King that didn’t want to hear from God trusted the word enough to go into battle disguised. How many times have you and I sought the Word of God and didn’t trust the Word enough to do what it said?
Does a righteous man seek the counsel of God’s Word for direction in every area and activity of life; yes! But, it ceases to be the mark of a righteous man when the counsel is sought only after the course of action is determined and we are willfully disobedient. What could have been a righteous act is now nothing more than a religious act to pacify the religious nature of fallen man! It’s nothing more than “whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).