Guest Writer Thomas DeWitt Talmage
“Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-Geber” (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37).
Your attention is called to a Bible incident that you may not have noticed. King Solomon had seagoing vessels that sailed to Tarshish (1 Kings 9:26-28; 10:22), the westernmost coast of Spain, and from there brought back gold and other precious items. His progeny, King Jehoshaphat, ventured to do the same (1 Kings 22:48) and, for this purpose, entered into an alliance with wicked King Ahaziah of Israel. Together they built ships at Ezion-Geber, on the Gulf of Aqaba, modern Jordan’s only seaport. But the Lord was not in it, and the venture failed.
So Jehoshaphat was unfortunate with his shipping because he had entered into an alliance with the wrong man. It is never safe to go in the boat with the wicked.
The principle is true in domestic alliances. “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers …. come out from among them, and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). I have known women who married men for the purpose of reforming them. I never knew one successful in the undertaking. Instead of the woman lifting the man up, the man drags her down. This is inevitably the case. The greatest risk that one ever undertakes is attempting the voyage of life in a boat in which the wicked sail. It is never safe to sail with the sons of Ahaziah.
The principle is just as true in regard to business alliances. Often men have not the choice of their worldly associations, they have to work with other employees; but there are instances where they may make their choice, and in that case it is never safe to go in the boat with the wicked. No man can afford to associate where Christ is maligned and scoffed at, or the things of eternity caricatured. Instead of your Christianizing them, they will heathenize you. While you propose to lift them up, they will drag you down. If, therefore, you have a choice when you go out in the world as to whether you will associate in business circles with men who love God, or those who are hostile to the Christian faith, you might better sacrifice some of your financial interests and go among the people of God than risk the interests of your immortal soul. You cannot afford to associate in business with those who despise God, and heed not His commandments. I admit that many men are forced into associations they despise, and there are business circles in which they are compelled to mingle that they do not like; but if you have a choice, see that you make an intelligent and safe one.
This principle is just as true in regard to social connections. Let no young man or woman go in a social circle where the influences are hostile to the Christian faith. You will begin by reproving their faults, and end by copying them. Sin is contagious. You go among those who are profane, and you will be profane. You go among those who use impure language, and you will use impure language. Go among those who are given to strong drink, and you will inevitably become inebriate. There is no exception to the rule. A man is no better than the company he continually keeps.
It is always best to keep ourselves under Christian influences. It is not possible, if you mingle with persons who are positively Christian, not to be made better men or women. The Christian people with whom you associate may not be always talking their faith, but there is something in the moral atmosphere that will be life to your soul. You choose for your most intimate associates eight or ten Christian persons. You keep company; you take their counsel; you are guided by their example, and you live a useful life, and die a happy death, and go to a blessed eternity.
For this reason Christians should engage in more religious conversation. Christian talk is not of so high a type as it used to be. Some of you can look back to your early days and remember how the neighbors used to come in and talk by the hour about Christ and heaven and their hopes of the eternal world. That kind of talk has gone out of fashion.
I suppose that if ten or fifteen of us should come into a circle to spend the evening, we would talk about the late presidential election, or the recent flurry in Wall Street, and about five hundred other things, and perhaps we would not talk any about Jesus Christ and our hope of heaven. That is not Christianity; that is heathenism. Indeed, I have sometimes been amazed to find Christian people actually lacking in subjects of conversation, while the two persons knew each was a Christian.
You take two Christian people of this modern day and place them in the same room. What are they talking about? There being no worldly subject common to them, they are in great stress for a subject, and after a long pause Mr A remarks: “It is a pleasant evening.”
Again there is a long pause. These two men, both redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, heaven above them, hell beneath them, eternity before them, the glorious history of the Church of Jesus Christ behind them, certainly after a while they will converse on the subject of religion. A few minutes have passed and Mr B remarks: “Fine autumn we are having.”
Again there is a profound quiet. Now, you suppose that their religious feelings have been held back for a while; the men have been postponing the things of God and eternity that they may approach the subject with more deliberation, and you wonder what useful thing Mr B will say to Mr A in conversation.
It is the third time, and perhaps it is the last that these two Christian men will ever meet until they come face to face before the throne of God. They know it. The third attempt is now made. Mr A says to Mr B: “Feels like snow!”
My opinion is, it must have felt more like ice. Oh, how little real, practical religious conversation there is in this day! I would to God that we might get back to the old-time Christianity, when men and women met together and felt, “Here I must use all the influence I can for Christ on that soul, and get all the good I can. This may be the last opportunity I shall have in this world.”
But there are Christian associations where men and women do talk out their faith; and my advice to you is to seek out those things, and remember that just in proportion as you seek such society will you be elevated and blessed. After all, the gospel boat is the only safe boat to sail in. The ships of Jehoshaphat went all to pieces at Ezion-Geber. Not because God disapproved of shipping, but because He disapproved of the company Jehoshaphat was keeping. “Because you have joined yourself with Ahaziah, the Lord has broken your works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).
Come aboard this gospel craft, made in the drydock of heaven and launched a couple of millennia ago in Bethlehem amid the shouting of the angels. Christ is the captain, and the children of God are the crew. The cargo is made up of the hopes and joys of all the ransomed. It is a ship bound heavenward, and all the batteries of God will boom a greeting as we sail in and drop anchor in the still waters. Come aboard that ship; it is a safe craft! The fare is cheap! It is a certain harbor!
The men of Ahaziah were forbidden to come aboard the ships of Jehoshaphat, but all the world is invited to board this gospel craft. The vessel of Jehoshaphat went to pieces, but this craft shall drop anchor within the harbor, and mountains shall depart, and hills shall be removed, and seas shall dry up, and time itself shall perish, “but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on them that fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).
The soul of a man is like a ship
That sails on the sea of time
Storms may come and winds may blow
And rock this ship of mine
But the reason my ship has never sank
And today it’s still afloat
My compass is His precious Word
And Jesus pilots my boat.
I won’t sail these stormy seas no more
Unless Jesus leads the way
I won’t ever drift so far from the shore
I can’t hear what He has to say
For I belong to a fleet that sails today
On a glorious one way trip
We’ll land safely on shore to sail no more
For Jesus pilots my ship.
My soul pulled in to safety’s port
The stern was torn apart
The bow of my vessel was so badly crushed
Sin waters’ flooded my heart
I had sailed so long on life’s angry waves
With my cargo of fear and despair
Then I called on His name and He lifted the blame
Now He pilots my ship everywhere. ~Ronny Hinson, “He Pilots My Ship” (1972)
Copyright © 2018 Alexandra Lee
*Adapted from “Jehoshaphat’s Shipping,” Thomas DeWitt Talmage [1832-1902], Around the Tea-Table (New York: Bible House, 1895). Quotes, scriptural locations, photos, links, emendations added.