"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber" (1 Kings 22:48).
The secret cause of Jehoshaphat's loss is well worthy of notice, for it is the root of very much of the suffering of the Lord's people; it was his alliance with a sinful family, his fellowship with sinners. In 2 Chron. 20:37, we are told that the Lord sent a prophet to declare, "Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works." This was a fatherly chastisement, which appears to have been blest to him; for in the verse which succeeds our morning's text we find him refusing to allow his servants to sail in the same vessels with those of the wicked king. Would to God that Jehoshaphat's experience might be a warning to the rest of the Lord's people, to avoid being unequally yoked together with unbelievers! A life of misery is usually the lot of those who are united in marriage, or in any other way of their own choosing, with the men of the world. O for such love to Jesus that, like Him, we may be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for if it be not so with us, we may expect to hear it often said, "The Lord hath broken thy works."
In the Bible we have a very short account of two kings who (at different times in history) got into shipbuilding to further their kingdoms, power and wealth. Their names were Solomon and Jehoshaphat. Both men chose the same seaport of Ezion-Geber to build and launch their ships. One succeeded and one failed. Why?
Let's look more closely and see what we can discover and then learn from.
Solomon built ships that withstood every circumstance that came against them. Was there a secret to his success?
1 KINGS 9:27:
"And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon" (KJV).
"And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon" (NASB).
"And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon" (AMP.).
"King Hiram supplied experienced sailors to accompany Solomon's crews" (TLB).
"And Hiram sent his men sailors who knew the sea to serve in the fleet with Solomon's men" (NIV).
"For this fleet Hiram sent men of his, sailors who knew the sea, to serve with Solomon's men" (Jerusalem Bible).
"King Hiram sent some experienced seamen from his fleet to serve with Solomon's men" (GNB).
MEN WHO HAD KNOWLEDGE OF THE SEA.
In 1 Kings 9:27 a key word is knowledge. "Knowledge" here is from the Hebrew word "yada" meaning:
Ezion-geber was the most important seaport of Old Palestine (4367 Thompson's Chain Reference Bible). "Ezion-geber" or "Ezion-gaber" means "backbone of a mighty one" or "counsel of a man."
In about 992 B.C. Solomon (1 Kings 9:26-28; 2 Chronicles 8:17-18) succeeded in the building of a fleet of ships there. Those ships passed all the tests within the harbour at Ezion-geber, then left the shelter of the harbour and went out on the high seas (where the real storms of life are encountered). Solomon's ships accomplished what they were built for! They brought back gold (1 Kings 9:28; 2 Chronicles 8:18), 420-450 talents of it (approx. 10.3 tons). Just one talent was worth approx. $US26,280.00 or $NZ50,000.00! (That was a lot of money back in those days).
A key to Solomon's success: He used experienced shipmen who had knowledge of the sea.
Many years later (B.C. 897?) King Jehoshaphat tried building ships at Ezion-geber to follow the example that Solomon had set (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). However, he was not successful. Before they even left the safety of the harbour, God caused them to be broken. How come that Jehoshaphat, even with the benefits of Solomon's success, could build ships in the same place, with the same working conditions, obstacles, etc., and yet be a failure?
Was there a reason as to why he failed?
1 KINGS 22:48:
"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber" (KJV).
"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber" (NASB).
"Jehoshaphat ordered ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber" (AMP.).
"King Jehoshaphat built great freighters to sail to Ophir for gold; but they never arrived, for they were wrecked at Ezion-geber" (TLB).
"Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail they were wrecked at Ezion Geber" (NIV).
"And King Jehoshaphat built a ship of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but his ship never reached there: it was wrecked at Ezion-geber" (Jerusalem Bible).
"King Jehoshaphat built ocean-going ships to sail to the land of Ophir for gold; but they were wrecked at Eziongeber and never sailed" (GNB).
How sad. A whole lot of time and work for nothing!
2 CHRONICLES 20:35-37 gives us the reason as to why Jehoshaphat's ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber:
"And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-gaber. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish" (KJV).
The word "wickedly" is from the Hebrew "rasha" meaning:
To be "allied" to some one means to be:
"After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, building them in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because you have joined Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy your works. So the ships were wrecked and unable to go to Tarshish" (AMP.).
But at the close of his life, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, went into partnership with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who was a very wicked man. They made ships in Ezion-geber to sail to Tarshish. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, telling him, "Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the Lord has destroyed your work. So the ships met disaster and never arrived at Tarshish" (TLB).
Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, who was guilty of wickedness. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made." The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade" (NIV).
"After this, Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who led him into evil ways. He combined with him to build ships that would sail to
Tarshish; they built them at Ezion-geber. Eliezer . . . then made a prophecy against Jehoshaphat. 'Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah,' he said 'Yahweh has broken your work.' The ships broke up and were never fit to sail for Tarshish" (Jerusalem Bible).
At one time King Jehoshaphat made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did many wicked things. At the port of Eziongeber they built ocean-going ships. But Eliezer . . . warned Jehoshaphat, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have built." And the ships were wrecked and never sailed" (GNB).
A reason for Jehoshaphat's failure: He joined affinity to King Ahaziah of Israel, who was a very wicked man.
The picture is clear. Jehoshaphat made a bad, dumb decision to go into partnership with an ungodly man a man who carried no convictions of right and wrong. There would have been "no way" that Ahaziah would have seen the need for the right, experienced men of knowledge who could see what was ahead, who knew how to prepare, etc. Instead Jehoshaphat compromised Ahaziah's way. God had to send a prophetic word through Eliezer that brought a collapse to the whole venture.
What a lesson! The principles still apply today:
"Do not be unequally yoked up with unbelievers do not make mis-mated alliances with them, or come under a different yoke with them [inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light fellowship with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, AMP.).
"Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together?" (GNB).
Jehoshaphat paid a high price for breaking that Biblical principle. And so do we!
Watch carefully who you go into any partnership with!
They do and will influence you according to what is in their heart.
Ahaziah's influence and knowledge was not of the prophetic kind, which put Jehoshaphat at a distinct disadvantage. Ahaziah's life-style was not God-honouring, thus putting Jehoshaphat into a compromising position. God had to send a prophet with a word of rebuke. Jehoshaphat paid a high price for his compromise. His ships never fulfilled the purpose for which they were created. They never even left the safety of the Ezion-geber harbour!
What another lesson here there is for us.
These ships can represent our Christian life.
They can represent our vision and calling.
They show us that there is a right and wrong way to do things in the Kingdom of God.
The right way is to use experienced prophetic people who can see where we're going in life; who have been out on the high seas themselves and have survived a few storms. People who have the right kind of knowledge which sees, feels and knows what to look out for when the storms are raging.
The wrong way is to involve people in positions of authority and responsibility who do not have a proven track record. They don't strongly hold to the principles of God and therefore compromise their convictions, their separation to God, their standard of holiness, and use those high positions to try to get gain. Just because Ahaziah was a king didn't mean he had "what it takes" to enable Jehoshaphat to fulfil his vision.
Because Jehoshaphat did not use prophetic people "who had knowledge of the sea" he was defeated even before he was able to leave the quietness and security of an inner harbour! No shipbuilder would continue getting orders whose boats sank in the harbour!
On the other hand, Solomon had learned a few things from his father David. He saw how David had succeeded in getting on the throne of Israel. He had built around him "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chronicles 12:32, KJV).
"Men of understanding." That is men who were able "to separate, to distinguish; hence, to discern, to mark, to understand, all which depend on the power of separating, distinguishing, discriminating; specially to discern, perceive; to discern mentally, to understand" (Wilson's). They had a spiritual, discerning understanding. This caused them to "know what Israel ought to do." The word "know" in this verse is the same Hebrew word "knowledge" is translated from in 1 Kings 9:27!! It is a knowledge that comes from perception and discernment, a spiritual knowledge.
Spiritual perception, discernment, knowledge and understanding (it also includes wisdom) enable us to make good decisions for that which is ahead. Solomon's sailors functioned in it and enabled the ships to come home again laden with gold. Because Jehoshaphat did not have that "knowledge" he made a bad decision that only led to a "fruitless" ministry and then a total disaster of his works!
For us Christians, we are called first and foremost to serve God; to listen to Him and obey His call. When we listen to, and build (our lives, ministries, future) on His voice and Word, then we shall have good success.
If we don't listen and do things God's way, we will finish up being "torpedoed" before we even get out of the inner, quiet and peaceful harbour. Sailing on the high seas will only be a dream . . . and will eventually turn into a nightmare! That is
because the disappointment and discouragement of knowing we have disobeyed the Lord makes our lives very miserable. No one can fight against God and be happy!
We must continually examine our own heart and motives if we are to succeed out on the high seas. We have to make very sure that we are doing what God wants us to do. It is much easier to "go with the flow" of popular (even church and current Christian) opinion, but if we want eternal fruit and results, we will be wise to listen to the call of Jesus our Master. The challenge is: "Will we build God's way, or our way?"
Ezion-geber is spiritually the place that discovers what we're made of. If we cannot endure the safety of its inner harbour we will never survive if we ever reach the open high seas. But the high seas are where our destiny is!
DOING WHAT JESUS SAYS:
It is a very sobering thing to realize that Jesus summed up His teachings on "The Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew Chapters 5 to 7) with the illustration of a wise and a foolish man. How amazing that both men heard exactly the same words directly out of the mouth of Jesus, yet one finished up a real success and the other a complete failure (Matthew 7:24-29).
Ezion-geber is the place where we discover whether or not we have a backbone (the name means "backbone of a mighty one"). A backbone holds the body together. Just think how well you would function if you suddenly lost yours! You would collapse in a heap. Praise God for those in the Kingdom who have backbone! One of the meanings of "backbone" is "strength of character; courage" (Collins Dictionary).
Ezion-geber represents the training ground of our future. If we cannot survive sailing around the inner harbour, we will never survive outside the harbour on the high seas. Those ships were made for the purpose of sailing out on the high seas to gather up the gold to prosper Solomon and Jehoshaphat.
Which brings us to an important, personal challenge:
Your Christian walk with Jesus Christ right now . . .
How well are you doing?
Where is your focus?
What motivates you?
Are you a God pleaser, or a man pleaser?
Are you listening to, and seeking to cultivate, the voice of Jesus in your life?
The only way we can be obedient to Jesus is for us to hear what He says to us.
There is no other way.
Ezion-geber is spiritually the place that discovers what we're made of.
Let's make sure we launch out properly prepared, and with the right, spiritually perceptive people around us.
Then . . . we will have the joy of bringing home the gold!
I chose "Ezion-geber" as a nic for myself in a rather unusual way as it was not a name I would have naturally chosen by rummaging around in my head. What happened was this: I felt inspired to dig out an old Bible Atlas of mine and flipped the pages until I came to a map of the Solomonic Empire. My eyes alighted on Israel's sole southern port and access to the Red Sea (for there was no Suez Canal in those days) on a tiny seaboard and "knew" this was the name I was to use. And it's been my main chat room name pretty well ever since I went on-line.
As it turns out, the use of this name as a nic has been quite prophetic in light of one of the main ministries I have, for it has been my calling to, on the one hand, restore since n the 1980's New Covenant Echad ("Oneness") Polygamy to the Body of Christ, and on the other, to counter the numerous counterfeits that have been swamping Christendom since the late 1990's which have brought spiritual and physical destruction in their wake. These other polygamy ministries, which have turned out to be cults or having cultic tendencies, have sought to attack my ministry and defame my name in one way or another and many have had their metaphorical ships broken.
The ancient seaport of Ezion-geber was geographically sandwiched in a narrow strip between the Sinai and Arabia just as the modern Eilat is squeezed between Egypt and Jordan. And that pretty well represents the conditions of my own polygamy ministry - sandwiched between two giants poly ministries who dislike echad polygamy as much as they dislike each other.
By the grace of Yahweh, our Father in Heaven, though, my ministry (which is called FICP) has always held its ground and flourished and seems to be the preferred spiritual home of most polygamy-sympathetic women and the more enlightened men who have rejected the male-macho approach of FICP's western neighbour and the wishy-washy feminism of its eastern one. And, so long as we remain obedient and teach in the knowledge of the truth, we shall continue to be blessed and flourished, as the Lord's treasures keep flowing in.
Ezion-geber was one of the resting places of the children of Israel in their journey to the Promised Land (Numbers 33:35-36; Deuteronomy 2:8) and lay at an important cross-roads.
It was from Ezion-geber that the Israelites made their fateful journey to Kadesh-barnea that led to 40 years wandering in the wilderness (the left-hand route) instead of the right-hand one which was Yahweh's original intended path. We see today the same mistake being made in the "Christian" polygamy movement which is veering off towards a false form of patriarchy that is leading to sorrow and suffering, inspite of trumped-up claims of "special anointings" and the razzle-dazzle of media attention. The minority - those following the Echad Polygamy model - are remaining in the place of spiritually well-water safety that was the original Ezion-geber before it was developed into a major seaport. And here we shall remain, not attempting to force our way into the kingdom as other ministries are doing, until we are called to enter into the Millennial Promised Land where Echad Patriarchy and Polygamy becomes the normative way of life.
Ancient Ezion-geber, which was rich in wells and palm-groves, was the normative settlement site of the district. Polygamy will not become normative until the millennium and those ministries who are trying to force the principle into the statute books of modern pagan Western nations like the United States by courting media attention, will meet the same fate as when the Israelites disregarded Moses' instructions and tried to attack Canaan by force of arms. They were dealt a humiliating defeat. The dream of the contemporary Christian ministries to make polygamy legal is going to backfire and turn on them with a vengeance. Instead of remaining in the remote settlement of Ezion-geber they decided to press on in the strength of the arm-of-flesh. The stories of woe that are pouring into my ministry caused by these foolish and spiritually disobedient people are heart-rending. Spiritual and physical abuse is on the increase among them, and the chief victims are women.
Accordingly, I hope polygamy never becomes legal, though at the same time would support any moves to remove any laws that would make it illegal. That way those who live this principle will be forced to do so without state assistance of any kind, thereby weeding out those who are not in earnest about living this lifestyle and who are not prepared to make sacrifices.
This is what Ezion-geber means for me, for to live this lifestyle the way Yahweh intends, and to be blessed by it, requires that the men and women living it have strong moral and spiritual "backbone".