The Good Father and the Bad Son
King Jehoshaphat was king of Judah. He was a good king and a good man who loved God and country. King Jehoshaphat was the great, great, great grandson of King David who had also been a good king and a good man who had also deeply loved God and country. Both men were fathers who loved their children.
King Jehoshaphat went through his kingdom tearing down any idols he could find and teaching the people the Word of God. He encouraged the people of Judah to turn from worshipping idols and to worship the one true God. Jehoshaphat so wanted his people to learn to love God.
On one occasion King Jehoshaphat led his people to fast and pray when soldiers from several strong nations were coming against the people of Judah to destroy them. God miraculously fought Judah’s battle for them because they believed in Him. The enemy soldiers became confused and fought one another instead of fighting the people of Judah! God blessed Judah with abundance throughout all of Jehoshaphat’s reign.
In 849 B.C., after a long successful reign, King Jehoshaphat died, and all the people of Judah mourned their beloved king. Jehoshaphat had also been a devoted father and had given all of his children expensive gifts. He passed his crown on to his beloved oldest son, Jehoram. But that proved to be a big mistake.
Jehoram was thirty two years old when he took over the throne from his father and he reigned as king for eight years. But in those terrible eight years Jehoram nearly tore apart everything that his good father, Jehoshaphat, had loved and worked so hard to accomplish. Soon after Jehoram became king of Judah, he had his six brothers murdered with the sword (2 Chronicles 21:2-4) along with some of their family members and friends. He must have been afraid that his position as king would be threatened by his brothers!
Next King Jehoram formed an alliance with the wicked King Ahab, who was king of Israel at that time. King Ahab along with his evil wife, Queen Jezebel, sacrificed children to their idols and led the nation of Israel into these practices. Jehoram married King Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, and he rejected the God of his fathers.
Jehoram joined his wife in worshipping and sacrificing to King Ahab’s idols. Together King Jehoram and his wife Athaliah set up idols around the country of Judah and ordered his people to sacrifice to these idols and forget their God. The town of Libnah revolted and refused to be part of Judah any longer because Jehoram “had abandoned Yahweh, the God of his fathers.” (2 Chronicles 21:10)
About this time God’s prophet Elijah sent King Jehoram a personal message or a prophecy from God. The message told King Jehoram that he had not walked in the ways of his fathers and that he had caused his people to “prostitute themselves.” The message mentioned that God saw everything that King Jehoram had done and that there would be consequences. God knew that Jehoram had murdered his brothers who were good men. The prophecy ended with God telling Jehoram that his household would be “struck” and that he would die of a painful bowel disease. Jehoram ignored God’s message and did not repent.
King Jehoram’s rule of Judah was shaky and Edom revolted and declared their independence from Judah. King Jehoram went out to fight Edom but his armies fled when the Edomites attacked. Soon after that the Philistines, Arabs and Ethiopians looted King Jehoram’s house and carried off nearly all of his family. (2 Chronicles 21: 16-17) And next King Jehoram contracted a painful bowel disease like the prophecy said would happen and two years later he died of it. Scripture says that no one in his kingdom mourned his death or honored him. And he was not buried with the other kings of Judah.
When we read a story like this we wonder how a good man like King Jehoshaphat could have been the father of such a bad son like King Jehoram. Actually King Jehoshaphat’s ancestor, King David, had the same problem. One of David’s sons, Absalom, murdered his brother Amnon. (2 Samuel 13:119-29) And then Absalom undermined his father by going around his kingdom spreading lies and bad stories about his father. Absalom encouraging the people and the armies of Israel to rebel against their king, King David. And then he led an army of insurgents against his own father, King David, to attack and kill him and take over his throne. (2 Samuel 15:1-10) It doesn’t get any worse than that, does it?
David and Jehoshaphat aren’t the only parents who had children who turned against them. It seems to be one of the problems that can plague any parent today as well as it was back in antiquity. Scripture says: “A grown child who is wise makes a father glad, but a grown child who is foolish is the sorrow of the mother.” (Proverbs 10:1) The book of Proverbs speaks often of wise persons and foolish persons but those words “wise” and “foolish” have a moral and spiritual meaning to them. In other words in the book of Proverbs a “wise” person follows God and a “foolish” person doesn’t.
It is touching to note that in spite of Absalom’s rebellion, he was still loved by his father, David. When Absalom attacked his father along with his armies, King David ordered his soldiers to defend their position but not to kill his son Absalom. But Absalom did die in the rebellion. When David was told of Absalom’s death he “was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. He said: ’O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place!’” (2 Samuel 18:33) Often the modern parent is caught up in the same dilemma as David was, angry that the grown child has rejected and disrespected family but caring and grieving and wanting the child back. It’s not a nice place to be.
Parents wonder what they have done wrong when a grown child rebels or cuts them off. Scripture speaks to parents. “Parents, do not provoke your children to anger,..” (Ephesians 6:4) and “Train up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) Parents have a responsibility to their children.
A parent may have done their best to raise their child to follow God. But the grown child ultimately has to make his or her own choices. All through the Bible God’s people are called to love family. And one of the Ten Commandments calls us to respect and honor our parents. (Exodus 20:12) When we break these commands God will forgive us if we are sorry, but there may still be consequences.
God is the perfect parent, yet so many of His children have turned away from Him. All through the prophetic scriptures God calls and begs His wayward children to return. Often the Holy Scriptures reflect God’s deep sorrow and love for His rebellious children along with His anger.
The parents who have a rebellious grown child should not give up hope! Parents can give their wayward child to God and trust Him to take care of the problem. (Malachi 4:6) God will get involved and He will answer our prayers in ways perhaps differently than we might imagine. If not in this world then in the next. Our impossibilities are God’s possibilities. We have an awesome God!