Characteristics of a Good Leader

Jehoshaphat Made a Bad Decision

God had blessed Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, and had given him great wealth and honor. Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat allied himself with wicked Ahab, the king of Israel, by marrying Ahab's daughter. So when Ahab decided to attack the Syrians at Ramoth Gilead he asked Jehoshaphat to fight with him, and Jehoshaphat agreed.

To Jehoshaphat's credit he told Ahab, "‘First seek the counsel of the LORD'" (2 Chronicles 18:4).1 Ahab summoned his four hundred false prophets, who "prophesied" that Ahab would be successful in the battle.

Jehoshaphat asked, "‘Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?'" (18:6). Ahab called for Micaiah, who told the king, "‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, "These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace"'" (18:16). Micaiah addressed Ahab, "‘If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me'" (v. 27).

After hearing that warning, we might assume that Jehoshaphat and Ahab changed their minds and decided not to attack Ramoth Gilead. However, they still pursued their course. Ahab chose to disguise himself so the Syrians would not know he was the king of Israel. However, Ahab told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes. Perhaps Ahab was hoping that the Syrians would kill Jehoshaphat instead of him.

Ahab's ruse almost worked. When the enemy commanders saw Jehoshaphat wearing his royal robes, they thought that he was Ahab and intended to kill him. But Jehoshaphat cried out to God, and the Lord helped him. Ahab, on the other hand, was killed by someone who drew his bow at random and hit Ahab between the sections of his armor!

In spite of Jehoshaphat's mistake in aligning himself with Ahab, he was still a godly king and exhibited the characteristics of a good leader.

Jehoshaphat Accepted Responsibility for His Actions

After Jehoshaphat returned from the battle that killed Ahab, the prophet Jehu rebuked him. "‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you'" (19:2). However, Jehu recognized that there was some good in Jehoshaphat, because he had gotten rid of the Asherah poles and had set his heart on seeking God (v. 3).

How did Jehoshaphat respond? He didn't blame anyone else or make excuses. He didn't say, "Ahab was my father-in-law, so I had to fight with him against the Syrians." He accepted responsibility.

Jehoshaphat Was a Godly King

"He walked in the ways his father David had followed" (2 Chronicles 17:3). "His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 17:6). He got rid of the high places. Because of Jehoshaphat's godliness, "the fear of the LORD" fell on the surrounding nations so that they did not make war against Judah (2 Chronicles 17:10).

He Educated His People

Jehoshaphat realized the importance of religious education. He sent out princes, priests, and Levites to teach the people the law of God. They went throughout the cities of Judah (2 Chronicles 17:7-9). He "turned the people back to the LORD, the God of their fathers" (19:4).

He Delegated to Responsible Men

Jehoshaphat appointed judges to settle disputes (2 Chronicles 19:5-6). He reminded them that they were not judging for man, but for the Lord, whenever they gave a verdict. "‘Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery'" (19:7).

He Led by His Example, Not by His Position

When the Moabites and Ammonites came to wage war against Judah, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. He proclaimed a fast for all of Judah, and the people came together to seek God's help. Then, setting an unforgettable example, Jehoshaphat stood before the people and affirmed God's power and asked for His help. "‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you'" (20:12).

God's Spirit came upon Jahaziel and he said, "‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's'" (20:15).

In gratitude for God's message, Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground and all the people fell down in worship (2 Chronicles 20:18).

Jehoshaphat went out with his army. "He appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever'" (2 Chronicles 20:21). As they praised, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

The fear of God came upon all the surrounding countries when they heard how God had fought against Judah's enemies. "The kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side" (20:30).


The apostle Paul said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). When we lead by our example, God can use us to bring correction and guidance, to offer wise counsel, to help others develop their God-given gifts, and to strengthen those who are discouraged or disillusioned.

1   All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

© by Howard W. Stevens