Jehoshaphat lives again in Jerusalem (verse 44So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers.). This indicates that he is again in the presence of the LORD. He continues on the right way. Now that he himself is back in the right place, he also brings the people “back to the LORD, the God of their fathers”. This is better than what he has done before, when he took the people on the wrong path in his cooperation with Ahab. Jehoshaphat has converted and does his “first works” here (Rev 2:55Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.; 2Chr 17:1-4,7-91Jehoshaphat his son then became king in his place, and made his position over Israel firm.2He placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had captured.3The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals,4but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did.7Then in the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah;8and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests.9They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.).
As in 2 Chronicles 17, he regulates justice among the people by appointing judges “in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city” (verse 55He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.). It is striking how emphatically the places where Jehoshaphat appoints the judges are described. It is not just general “in the land”, but “in all the fortified cities of Judah” and then also “city by city”. It indicates that Jehoshaphat takes his task seriously. He has become wiser through experience.
The fact that he takes his task seriously is not only demonstrated by the appointment of judges. It is also evident from what he says to the judges. He impresses upon them that they should remember well that they represent the LORD as the supreme Judge (verse 66He said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD who is with you when you render judgment.). He is present at all rendering judgment. On his behalf they speak justice and not for people. Paul is aware that the judgment of his service does not depend on people, but on the Lord (1Cor 4:3-43But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by [any] human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.4For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.), and we should also think of that.
Jehoshaphat not only lets the word preach, but also ensures that people live up to it. The judges must decide how to proceed in cases where disputes have arisen. They know the law of the LORD and must apply it correctly. Jehoshaphat binds them to the heart that they will fulfill their duty “in the fear of the LORD” (verse 77Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”). That will keep them from speaking what people like to hear or what suits them best. They will also be preserved for taking a bribe.
So should we also do if there are disputes between believers (1Cor 6:55I say [this] to your shame. [Is it so, that] there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,; Mt 18:15-2015“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.16But if he does not listen [to you], take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.20For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”). If we know ourselves responsible, how careful we will be with our statements among God’s people. Judges are people who know God’s will in difficult cases. They are wise men who, in practical difficulties, speak the right word from God’s Word.
Justice must be spoken that answers to Who God is, in a way that justice reflects His features. He is righteous and completely consistent in His judgment. He is “the righteous Judge” (2Tim 4:88in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice? (Gen 18:2525Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are [treated] alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”, literal translation). He is the God Whom we call upon as Father and Who “impartially judges according to each one’s work” (1Pet 1:1717If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay [on earth];).
Jehoshaphat also establishes a higher court, formed by some Levites and priests from Judah, to which he also adds some heads of families from Israel (verse 88In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ [households] of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.). This court is located in Jerusalem. There the “judgment of the LORD” is done, that is, in His Name. That’s where it all starts. Then we read about judging “disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. It is about them, it concerns them.
The judges of this court, like their colleagues in the cities of Judah van Jehoshaphat, are commanded to judge “in the fear of the LORD” (verse 99Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and wholeheartedly.; cf. verse 77Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”). Jehoshaphat adds that they will do their work “faithfully and wholeheartedly”. Faithfulness is an important condition in every work we do for the Lord. It is even the most important measure for judging our service (1Cor 4:22In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.). We can only prove this faithfulness if our heart is all for the Lord.
For the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the court is the ordinary court of justice. For the inhabitants of the other cities, it seems more like a higher court where they can go for justice if they cannot find a solution in their own place of residence (verse 1010Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the LORD, and wrath may [not] come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty.; cf. Deu 17:88“If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses.). The judges have a great responsibility to deal with any dispute in such a way that both themselves and the persons they judge are not found guilty before the LORD.
The highest judges are mentioned (verse 1111Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to the LORD, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and the LORD be with the upright.”). There are two of them. There is the “chief priests ... for every matter [that] concerns the LORD”, that is to say in the things that are in connection with worship and temple service. Also there is “the leader of the house of Judah for every case [that] concerns the king”. This applies more to all state and administrative matters. These issues are very much intertwined in Israel.
The chief priest and the ruler of Judah are together a picture of the Lord Jesus as King-Priest. Finally, every member of God’s people must be accountable to Him. We will have to answer to the Lord Jesus for every decision we make.
After his extensive explanation of what is expected of the judges, Jehoshaphat says that they should get to work. He also spoke one last word of encouragement to them. He encourages them to act resolutely. This means to act in accordance with the will of the LORD. If they do, they will at upright and may they be sure that the LORD is with them. “The upright” is the one who does what is right in the eyes of God and who lives from the Word of God.