A while back I was reading through 2 Chronicles, and I was struck by a scene in chapter 18.
Judah’s King Jehoshaphat (yes, as in, “jumping Jehoshaphat!”) was visiting King Ahab of Israel, who wanted to form a military alliance with his southern neighbor. Jehoshaphat immediately agrees to join forces with Israel, but he has one request: “first, let’s see what the Lord has to say.” (18:4) So the kings summon 400 prophets and ask “Should we go to war or not?” The prophets are all in agreement: Attack, and God will give you victory!
This is where things get interesting. Rather than accepting this encouraging response, Jehoshaphat asks Ahab, “Isn’t there any other prophet of the Lord around whom we could ask?” (18:6) They’ve already gotten a unanimous and enthusiastic answer from the prophets—and, considering they will eventually go to war, presumably that was the answer they wanted to hear. And yet Jehoshaphat still seeks out an alternative point of view, one that he probably won’t like.
Proverbs 15:22, attributed to Jehoshaphat’s great-great-grandfather, Solomon, says that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I think, in this story, Jehoshaphat recognized something that’s left unsaid in the proverb: an abundance of counsel is no help if we only listen to people who will affirm us and never challenge us. A lack of diverse counsel is a lack of counsel. These kings had already heard what they wanted to here, and yet Judah was not ready to proceed until they had considered another perspective.
This struck me because a willingness to listen to alternative points of view is sorely lacking in America today. We’re combative rather than curious. Instead of seeing different perspectives as understandable or in any way helpful, we tend to label people with different views harshly: they’re hateful, ignorant, stupid, evil. People who don’t agree with me on X, Y, or Z simply don’t have anything valuable to say.
Jehoshaphat, one of the rare good kings after David and Solomon, models a different approach to disagreement: listening to other voices is beneficial, something that can better inform our decision-making.
Eventually they consult the prophet Micaiah, who is clearly not King Ahab’s favorite adviser. Micaiah warns them, accurately, that Israel’s king will die on the battlefield. They launch their attack anyways. Jehoshaphat didn’t agree with the lone dissenter, but he still heard him out.
To me, this is part of what it means to be “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). When we prioritize listening, the people around us can feel seen and valued. But, as if that weren’t enough, being “quick to listen” also benefits the listener: it’s a habit that will challenge us and give us a greater “depth of insight” (Phil 1:9) as we hear ideas and perspectives that we otherwise would avoid. To me, this is a sign of maturity and wisdom that we all need to strive for.
Do you see different opinions as valuable?
Do you take time to listen to other perspectives on things or automatically dismiss people who don’t agree with you?
How do you imagine Jesus approached this?