Do the unbelieving people with whom you live, work and play benefit from the residual godliness that spills over from your life? They should. The fact is, your faith should be making an impact on the people around you, even if they don’t embrace it. Hopefully they will at some point, but they may never. But as long as you are there, there ought to be a sense among unbelievers that they are better off precisely because you are among them. Your job is to make the gospel of Jesus attractive.
Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 3:14
Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.
Israel was circling the drain. They had lived under the successive reigns of one evil king after another, and consequently, the nation had been in a downward moral spiral for decades that had turned into centuries. So bad was their national sin that soon they would reap what they had sown: divine judgment was coming, from which they would not recover.
In this story, wicked King Ahab’s Son, Joram, was now the leader over Israel, and he was spoiling for a fight. A nation that his father had subjugated had rebelled now that Ahab was dead, and King Joram was distressed to lose this vassal state of Moab, which would not only be an embarrassment to his new leadership, it would cut off the tax revenue that subjugated nations had to pay their overlords. (2 Kings 3:3-4)
So Joram rallied his troops to rectify this disappointing development. (2 Kings 4:6) Then as he readied his army, the idea came to him that it would be wise to get help. So he asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah, Israel’s cousins, to join him in the battle. And the good and godly king of Judah agreed to go to war alongside the ungodly king of Israel—a decision he probably should have fasted and prayed over before making:
On the way, he sent this message to King Jehoshaphat of Judah: “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you join me in battle against him?” And Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one. My troops are your troops, and my horses are your horses.” Then Jehoshaphat asked, “What route will we take?”
Now this is not the first time Jehoshaphat had agreed to an alignment that he should have first prayed over (1 Kings 22:1-9) And sure enough, once the armies set out, they ran into a real problem: After days in the wilderness, there was no water to sustain neither the troops nor their animals—and the situation was dire. (2 Kings 3:9) It was at this point that the king who did not follow the God of Israel now blamed God for the mess they now faced:
“What should we do?” the king of Israel cried out. “The Lord has brought the three of us here to let the king of Moab defeat us.” (2 Kings 3:10)
At this point in the story, albeit after the fact, Jehoshaphat finally did the right thing and sought the advice of the Lord:
But King Jehoshaphat of Judah asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord with us? If there is, we can ask the Lord what to do through him.” (2 Kings 3:11)
It was here that Elisha the prophet was introduced into this story. Pushed by Jehoshaphat, King Joram reluctantly sought the counsel of the man whose predecessor, Elijah, had been the bur under King Ahab’s saddle—and if Elijah had been surely and sarcastic, then Elisha was Elijah on steroids. When he heard Joram’s request Elisha asked,
“Why are you coming to me? Go to the pagan prophets of your father and mother!” (2 Kings 3:13)
Dripping with sarcasm, Elisha rightly suggested that King Joram seek those inept false gods upon whom he and the nation had been foolishly depending on for decades. Nevertheless Elisha finally agreed to give a word from the Lord, and it was a word that resolved the water issue that threatened to decimate the armies of Israel and Judah—a miraculous resolution when overnight, God provided water in the middle of this dry wasteland,
The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere. (2 Kings 3:20)
That is a long contextual build up to the stunning reason Elisha was willing to go to God on wicked Israel’s and foolish Judah’s behalf: good King Jehoshaphat. The godly prophet had immense respect for the godly king, so he stepped in to help. (2 Kings 3:14)
Which leads me to this question: do the ungodly people with whom you live, work and play benefit from the residual godliness that spills over from your life? They should. Would they truly miss you if you were gone? The fact is, your faith should be making an impact on the people around you, even if they don’t embrace it. Hopefully they will at some point, but they may never. But as long as you are there, there ought to be a sense among unbelievers that they are better off precisely because you are among them.
Of course, that means you must be boldly, visibly, vocally and sacrificially living out your faith in an attractive and compelling way. You must make the gospel attractive by the way you live, as the Apostle Paul profoundly taught in Titus 2:7-13,
You must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us. Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way. For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
Though quite flawed but organically righteous, King Jehoshaphat’s life attracted favor from God through his prophet, Elisha—and ungodly Israel reaped the results. That is your job today: through your life, make Jesus attractive.