|** Photo credit below|
I was reading through 2 Chronicles the other day and I ran into an incredible passage. Some of the kingdom of Judah's enemies, the Moabites, Ammonites, and others, were preparing to battle against King Jehoshaphat. Once the King found out, the Bible says that he "feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" (2Ch. 20:3). It isn't long before all of Judah is going before God to ask for his help (v. 4). Instantly I began to think about what - or, more importantly, who - I turn to when things turn sour. Though my own trials and stresses of school, finances, and jobs pale in comparison to a giant army of deadly enemies rising up to kill me, I realized that the response is always supposed to be the same. Instead of fleeing or even preparing the army for battle, King Jehoshaphat turned to God. How often do I do that? Not enough. The utter foolishness of not going to the One who made the heavens and knows precisely how many hairs are on my head is obvious. It is all the more frustrating, then, to admit that I have accepted defeat at the hands of the Enemy before the battle even begins - all by not seeking the LORD from the outset.
What I really like about King Jehoshaphat's plea to God is how he acknowledges just how great and powerful God really is! Check out what he declared before the entire congregation of Judah and Jerusalem:
"O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying 'If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you - for your name is in this house - and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.' And now, behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy - behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." - 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 (emphasis mine)King Jehoshaphat knew the God whom he served. His faith in this passage is extraordinary. What a bold confession! He acknowledges the assurance of his fathers - God hears and saves. He recognizes his utter weakness in dealing with this great threat. In his words, he is "powerless"! But he has made his eyes steady on the One who saves (see Hebrews 12:1-2). The same is true in our lives. We are utterly hopeless and "powerless" in face of the terrible tyrant of sin seeking to destroy us. We are like King Jehoshaphat and Judah - we can't do it! But we serve a mighty God! Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)! Will we come to terms with our total weakness, and turn our eyes to God's all-encompassing strength?
As always, God answers the call. And boy what an answer it is! The Spirit of the LORD came upon a man named Jahaziel and spoke:
Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you." - v. 15-17 (emphasis mine)Not that he ever does, but I think we can all agree that God didn't disappoint with this response. He gives King Jehoshaphat and the people a stunning promise: all of the army will be defeated, and the men of Judah need not lift a finger. Clearly, you do not need to be a scholar in military history to recognize that this defies human reason. The idea that an entire deadly army of warriors will be defeated without an opposing army battling against them is absurd - that is, if the King of Kings and God of the universe isn't on your side. After all, with God "all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). Besides, God said it himself : this was his battle, not Judah's. The question remains, though. Would Judah believe? Maybe a better question is, Do we believe? When God tells us he will never leave us nor forsake us, that nothing can separate us from his love, and that sin no longer has any power over us, do we actually believe Him? Because, let's face it, it certainly sounds like crazy talk. Good sounding talk, but crazy, nonetheless. Can God actually make good on the things that he promises?
King Jehoshaphat and and all of Judah certainly believed so. Right after God's powerful answer, the King and the people went to their knees in humble worship. They lifted up the LORD with loud voices and shouted praises unto Him into the night. They went to bed in full assurance of the faithfulness of their God. There was no doubt. God had promised and he cannot lie. (v. 18-19)
The next morning, King Jehoshaphat went out with the people to the wilderness near the place the LORD had instructed the night before. In another remarkable showing of faith, the King stopped and rose his voice before the people: "Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed." Talk about leading with example. Here was the King of Judah giving perhaps the best advice any King could ever offer: Trust in God. But he wasn't done. He then sent singers before the army to give praise to the LORD there. Their song? "Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever." What a picture! What a scene! King Jehoshaphat was organizing a church service and worship session on the battlefield! What is this??? The people are proclaiming God's mercy and faithfulness, and they haven't even seen with their eyes if God truly kept his promise! They are proceeding as if they already had the victory! This is faith. This is reckoning the promises of God. Like Jacob wrestling the Almighty through the evening, Judah was defiantly holding God to his promise. They would not let go. (v. 20-21)
"And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed... When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped." - v. 22-24Faith rewarded. God moved when the praise began. When the eyes were on Him, he took action. "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19). God is ALWAYS faithful! He ALWAYS keeps his promises! We must believe. Imagine the thoughts running through the people of Judah's mind as they arrived. "Woah." God ALWAYS comes through! May we be like King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah - boldly believing in the Word of God, standing on His promises, praising His holy name, and claiming the victory in Christ Jesus, in whom we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)!
I have a lot to learn. I still far too often turn to the flesh when the going gets rough instead of getting on my knees and turning my eyes to the Most High. I don't shout praises to God and sing to his holy name when the Enemy lurks right over the hill. Self-preservation springs up, and fear too! I can just hear my Lord's soft, but piercing words: "O ye of little faith." I too often heed Satan's age-old tactic of provoking doubt when he asks, "Did God really say?" Get behind me, Satan! If God says it, I believe it! He promises victory against sin - without question or exception - if we are in Christ Jesus our LORD! If I just put my faith in Him, I can recognize the awesome fulfillment of the dead Moabites, Ammonites, and Mount Seirites in the valley east of Jeruel! Will you join me in claiming the victory? I thank God for his grace in increasing our faith every day, and his redemptive work of uprooting the sin and doubt that we still cling to in our life! Oh, sweet, sweet victory; the awesome, soul-changing, earth-shattering, supernatural, unfailing victory of faith in the Almighty God - a faith that is always rewarded!
** Photo By JJ Harrison (email@example.com) (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons