Trouble of great magnitude has come up against Israel before and it will again. But wonderfully, we have a guidebook to surviving calamity. This magnificent book gives many pieces of trustworthy advice about how to survive and even thrive against all odds. The wisdom is tried and tested, and the principles have much to teach us all today, both in Israel and all over the world! Looking at just one story, we can see a great example to help us as we face all kinds of trouble, no matter how serious it is.
Stories like that of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20 may be thousands of years old, but this one in particular seems as relevant today as ever! Let’s look at how Jehoshaphat responds to impending doom, and what we can learn from his great example…
“We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You!” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
I am in a pickle!
The chapter opens up by describing the terrifying situation facing the King of Judah:
“The Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Ein Gedi).”
Not one but three armies were gathering around and closing in on Judah – a great multitude were moving closer and closer. Verse 3 tells us that Jehoshaphat was afraid. This is also part of the problem, but nothing that cannot be addressed.
First we will look at what he did, then we will go through his prayer that has been recorded in the Bible for us point by point, because there is so much to learn from it! We will see how God responded, and how we can apply these things to our lives and our nations today.
Jehoshaphat’s plan of action:
First and foremost, Jehoshaphat “Set his face to seek the Lord”. You can get scared and collapse in a quivering heap, OR you can get serious in your determination to seek God. Jehoshaphat made a deliberate choice to turn from fear to faith, and “set his face”. This is an expression of choosing his direction and attitude. He made the decision to look at God, not at his problems.
He called a country-wide fast – he gathered people to join him and stand with him. We know that fasting is an excellent place to start seeking God, and asking others to join you is a jolly good idea.
We are then told that “Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.” (v4) later on we read that “all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” (v13) There is great power when believers are united together in prayer. Revival usually happens when there has been both prayer and unity established first among believers.
Now let’s look at his prayer:
“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.”
Essentially, Jehoshaphat is saying to God, “I know you are mighty, and I know you can do this”. God LOVES us to call to mind who he is – his mighty power, the fact that he is in heaven and Lord over all. This also builds our faith.
“Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it for ever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”
He’s saying, “I remember you’ve done this before in the past, and I would also like to remind you of your covenants and your friendship”. God certainly was a friend of Abraham – he loved that guy. Many times we read of how God acted due to his promises to Abraham, David, and so on. God is a faithful friend. If he makes a promise, he never – NEVER breaks it. He will never let his friends down.
“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, judgement, 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.’”
Jehoshaphat reminds God, “Lord, YOU SAID…, Lord YOU PROMISED…” Reminding God of all he’s done and said in the past is also a really important key in powerful praying. Not because he has forgotten, but we need to remember, and in doing so, our faith increases. “Wait a minute – you can totally do this! I know you can! Remember that time when…” Recounting his words and promises back to him is also essential. Praying using the Bible as your source material is a great idea! “Look God, you say here that…” Expect him to fulfill his word. It delights his heart.
“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.”
Jehoshaphat says, “Here is my problem, and it’s threatening to take away something that you have given”. We can pour out our heart to God, explaining the whole situation to him in detail. It’s not that he doesn’t know, but again, it helps us to release it to him and lay it at his feet, for his attention. Is the enemy trying to steal something that is rightfully yours as a blood-bought child of God? Alert your heavenly father and call him to your aid!
“O our God, will you not execute judgement 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.”
He’s saying, “There is nothing we can do here, we’re lost without you, we’re totally counting on you here”. This attitude of utter dependence so pleases God. Sometimes we live in the delusion that we are in control, but the reality is much more clearly seen in times of trouble. “God, without you we’re sunk!” Yes, yes we are. This is agreeing with God. Again, this delights God’s heart as we align ourselves with him and his truth, remember who he is, who we are, and exercise faith in his word and his character.
God loves so many things here that Jehoshaphat expressed. It is no wonder after this prayer that God rushes in to bring encouragement. And it’s no ordinary encouragement either – God’s Spirit fills the prophet Jeheziel with an extraordinary message:
“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s… 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.”
They don’t even need to fight! Well this is great news!
So now what?
“Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord”.
They got flat on their faces in awe and worship. Then the Levites stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice! There’s a time for quiet reflection in awe of God, and there’s a time to make a very loud noise too!
They all got up early to go to the place God had told them to go, and Jehoshaphat calls out,
“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.”
Did you hear that? BELIEVE in the Lord your God, and you will be established. BELIEVE his prophets, and you will succeed. Then after taking counsel with the people, they decided who was going to go and SING. Because that’s what this victory would take – a good amount of SINGING.
“He appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures for ever.” 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 THEY BEGAN to sing and praise, the Lord… this reminds me of Angel Michael telling Daniel that he’d started out as soon as Daniel had begun to pray. As soon as these guys start singing, God gets busy achieving victory. Did you know the Hebrew word for ‘choirmaster’ is from the same root as ‘victory’?
In singing God’s praises, we are advancing God’s Kingdom. We have to know it is his power, his victory, and his might that saves the day, and we need to believe it. It’s hard to sing if you’re not full of faith, but then again, it’s hard to stay in terrible doubt when you make yourself sing. He inhabits the praises of his people and he loves to move on our behalf when we joyfully express our faith him in our hour of need.
So to recap, here are the 12 top tips we can learn from Jehoshaphat’s example:
- Set your face to seek God
- Join with others in prayer and fasting
- Remember who God is – who you’re talking to
- Remember what he’s done in the past
- Remember what he’s said, promises he’s given
- Tell God all these things too, and remind him
- Tell him your problem
- Tell him you’re sunk without him
- BELIEVE him and his prophets
- Bow down and worship in silent awe of God
- Sing loud praises to God about his goodness
- Watch God work on your behalf
Our eyes are upon you, Lord!