My nerves seem to automatically go into high alert when the stillness of night broken with the sound of a ringing telephone. Somehow those calls that are made in the middle of the night usually carry bad news in some form. When a call awakens me in the darkest hours and it’s a wrong number, I am thankful:D
This week I have been spending a lot of time in 2. Chronicles 20 which describes a time when King Jehoshaphat of Judah found himself to be the recipient of some dire and distressing news.
As I read this chapter I found myself wondering what this king was doing when some people came up to him and brought him the news that there was a vast army of three nations coming to do battle against him…
And they were already on his doorstep.
Have you ever had news like that? Sudden news is the kind that is totally unexpected and leaves one reeling in its intensity and potential ramifications?
I definitely have…
And King Jehoshaphat definitely did.
In the moment that he received this news – whatever he was doing became unimportant compared to the magnitude of this news.
How to deal with this situation became his sole focus.
But there was one problem…
There was absolutely nothing he could do. With an army this big – about a day’s ride away – he didn’t have time to prepare or to strategize.
He found himself in a situation where he was helpless.
He was alarmed. Fearful. Afraid.
But as we read this story, we find that his fear propelled him to seek after God…to call on God for help. He called together the people of Judah and they prayed.
His prayer wasn’t a long one, but it was a powerful one in which he recalled that God is sovereign overall, having such great power and might in His hands that no one is able to withstand Him. He remembered what God had done in the past and a promise that God had given to hear the prayers of His people when they prayed (2. Chronicles 7:15). He also simply stated what the situation was and admitted that there was nothing he nor the people could do.
“For 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. Chron. 20:12)
They were powerless. They didn’t have any strategy on how to respond.
But their eyes were focused on God, and they stood together before the Lord. They ceased their activity. They stopped. They weren’t sending messengers to other nations for help. They were not running to and fro trying to come up with a way to deal with this situation that had the potential to bring about their destruction.
They were still. Their gaze was focused upwards. They were persistently waiting upon the One in whom they had placed their hope.
What courage it takes to wait upon God…to be still before Him…to be quiet and focus one’s gaze upwards in hope when the very ground beneath one’s feet is trembling with the oncoming forces that have the potential to destroy one’s life.
These verses in 2. Chronicles don’t tell us how long the people waited, but it does point out that they prayed. They stood before the Lord.
They received a word from the Lord!
What were the words given to them?
Don’t be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. There are many times in Scripture when we find God reminding His people to not be afraid and to not become dismayed or discouraged about the circumstances that are being faced. Again and again He reminds us that He – the God in whose hands is such strength and might that no power can withstand Him – is with us…and that He – the God who is sovereign overall – will not forsake us. He is the One who upholds us. He is the One who helps us. He is the One who strengthens us. He is the One who has a plan to turn even the most overwhelming and devastating circumstances that we face into something for our good.
Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! So much for the element of surprise! In His Words, God tells Jehoshaphat the specific path that this massive army is going to be taking; but, He gives this information not so that the people can run and hide, but so that they can go and take up their position against this army that is coming against them.
When I read these words I am reminded of how often God will provide the specific instructions and promises from His word that I need to face a situation. When I take the time to be still before Him, to acknowledge Him in my ways and trust Him – He will provide what I need to know for the situation that I am in…
Not so that I can run away or strategize my way out…but so that I can take up my position and stand firm.
There have even been times in my morning devotional time with God, when He will bring one verse to the forefront of the passage that I am studying. While I don’t know it at the time, He is preparing me in advance for something specific that I am going to face later in the day…something that He knows of, but I don’t, but when I step into it, I am prepared with what I need:D
Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them for the Lord is with you. This is the second time that God includes the words to not be afraid…to not be dismayed…to go out tomorrow against them, for the Lord is with them. I am so thankful that God is patient and continually reiterates what I need to hear – to not be afraid, dismayed, to keep moving forward because He is with me. There are some days when the circumstances that I face could so easily overwhelm and discourage me if I did not remember that God was there with me. Sometimes I have to recall to my mind specific verses again and again so that I remember the truth of God’s promises as I take up my position, stand firm and keep moving forward.
How did Jehoshaphat respond to receiving this word from the Lord?
With worship and praise.
He did not wait until God had fulfilled His promises to them. He worshipped God right in the middle of this situation that he was facing. He wasn’t trying to strategize a backup plan in the event that God didn’t fulfill His promises.
Jehoshaphat was that confident God would be faithful to complete what He had promised.
The next morning came, and as they are getting ready to go out and face the enemy, Jehoshaphat reminds the people to believe in the Lord, and then he puts at the front of his army, people who were singing to God! Can you imagine going to face an army with a group of singers at the front of your own army?
Yet, that is exactly what he did. And these were the words that they were singing,
Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.
While this army – being led by people singing praises to God – marches out to face the enemy, God set up ambushes for the invading army. When Jehoshaphat and his people reach the place where God told them to go, the invaders are completely defeated. Not one is left standing.
God had fought the battle for them.
Just as He had said he would.
There are so many truths included in these verses that I have learned and been reminded of this week…
- There are times when God will allow me to face circumstances and situations in which I am utterly helpless and powerless, so that I will be driven to Him in order that I will learn that in Him I am not without hope. In Him, I will be provided with what I need to take up my position and stand firm so that I will not give way to fear and discouragement.
- My initial reaction does not have to dictate my first response. Like Jehoshaphat, there are some situations that come upon me so unexpectantly that I am completely caught by surprise and when I initially face them I am alarmed. But this initial feeling of fear can be the very thing that propels me to God. Instead of letting fear take root and be what controls my actions, it can be the very thing that makes my first response that of turning my heart to seek the face of God.
- While God may not remove a situation from me, He will always provide what I need to go through that situation. Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything that we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him…” It is critical that I take time each day to feed on His words of truth and to meditate on them throughout the day so that I will be able to take up my position and stand firm in the midst of whatever I may face.
- I don’t have to wait until the end of a trial to praise God for His faithfulness and His love. In fact, in the middle of narrow straights…where I have no room to maneuver or change my situation…where I am powerless and helpless…choosing to praise God for His love and faithfulness reminds me of that simple truth…God loves me. He loves me!
As the recipient of His unfailing love and forever faithfulness I can rest within the shelter of His wings, knowing that He is sovereign, He will always be with me and He will not allow anything into my life that He will not provide what I need to go through it. He is my Good Shepherd. In Him I shall not lack anything. In fact, His goodness and His unfailing love will follow me – and you…
Wherever He leads…
Even into those situations that leave us helpless and powerless.