2 Chronicles 20:1-23 King’s Prayer
Jehoshaphat is faced with insurmountable odds when the armies of the Moabites and Ammonites and Meunites come against him. He turns to God in prayer.
This story has me pulling at my ‘leash’ to get to it! It is one of TOTAL dependence and recognition of Who is in charge of EVERYTHING in this world. Jehoshaphat freely acknowledges his own place in this world and glorifies God by asking for His deliverance.
The hardest part for me in today’s portion of the story is waiting for tomorrow’s! I am VERY tempted to run them together into one story, but I’m going to resist that temptation; probably. I want to do this story from a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective. That is probably another good reason to let it remain broken in two; for length’s sake.
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It has been nearly a year since Jehoshaphat was reproved by the Lord through Jehu. At the time of reproof Jehoshaphat was stung by the words of Jehu. He had imagined that his alliance with Ahab would please the Lord because it was the first stepping stone towards reunification of the kingdoms. Or at least that was Jehoshaphat’s intent.
The night following his reproof was the longest in Jehoshaphat’s entire life. Never had he been laid so bare. He had tried with all his heart to please the Lord in ALL he did. But he recognized the truth in the words of the Lord.
Jehoshaphat had not sought the Lord’s counsel before entering into marriage with the house of Ahab. He had not searched for a wife devoted to the Lord either. Instead, he had taken a wife for political purposes that he intended to mold into a woman of God. Jehoshaphat could now see that this was folly. He would have to guard his heart against corruption from the woman instead.
During this long night Jehoshaphat did three things. First, he separated himself from his bride as much as possible. He would not withhold his duty to her but neither would he seek out her counsel. Second, he repented of his folly. He presented himself to the priest for an offering of atonement. He KNEW there would still be consequences for his actions but his heart was now restored through the Law. And third, he recommitted himself to making certain that EVERY man, woman, and child had access to the teachings of the Lord. His people would follow the Lord if it kills him!
Since that night Jehoshaphat has been waiting for the other sandal to fall. He remembers clearly the words of Jehu; “Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2b). Jehoshaphat knows something is coming but he doesn’t know what it will be or when it will occur. Whatever it is, he is determined to meet it in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. He refuses to live in fear of that moment and has committed himself to reform in his entire kingdom.
Jehoshaphat was working with a group of Levites in the Temple courtyard as it was such a beautiful day. They were discussing the Law and how best to present one of the passages during the upcoming Sabbath. As they were talking two of Jehoshaphat’s guards came rushing up to them.
Jehoshaphat saw the concern on the men’s faces before they even spoke a word.
“What is it Captain” he asked.
“A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (verse 2b) exclaimed the guard.
Fear gripped Jehoshaphat. He knew his guards. They would not have said “a great multitude” if it were not so many that they would be unable to stand against them. The fear in the guard’s voice spoke clearly of his expectations of defeat.
Without even a thought of how to prepare his men for battle, Jehoshaphat sought the ONLY One Who could rescue him. He turned to the Levites who were with him and began to issue orders.
“Blow the Ram’s Horn to announce an assembly. Proclaim a fast throughout ALL the land of Judah. We must seek help from the Lord.”
Some of the priests hurried to the parapets and began blowing the call for an assembly. The people had been trained all their lives to heed such a call and they began pouring into the courtyard before the final blast died on the air.
Four other groups of priests gathered their horns and set out in all directions from Jerusalem to call the rest of the nation. They were carried along by the fastest chariots and horses. They rode throughout the towns and cities sounding the alarm. Within a day all of Judah was hurrying to Jerusalem in answer to Jehoshaphat’s call.
It mattered not at what time the people poured into the courtyard of the Temple or even if they were unable to enter because of the press of the crowd. NONE left. None returned to their homes thinking there were enough others to make up for their absence. None decided they had more pressing matters to attend to. The crowd continued to swell as more and more people arrived in answer to Jehoshaphat’s summons.
Jehoshaphat stood before the people and waited as more gathered. He called out to them hourly as they assembled and announced that they were to fast before the Lord.
“Let nothing touch your lips until our plea has been brought before the Lord and answered! This is a solemn fast to the Lord.”
As the time of the evening sacrifice drew near the whole city of Jerusalem was filling with the people of Judah. More were still to come but Jehoshaphat felt this was the time to bring their petition before the Lord. Delaying too long for those still coming would give their attackers an even greater chance of reaching the people. Jehoshaphat strengthened his heart and turned to face the Temple of the Lord. He began to pray in the hearing of all the people.
“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in Heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In Your had are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You…” Jehoshaphat fixed his face on heaven as he cried out and spread his arms wide as if to encompass all the kingdoms beyond Judah’s borders.
“…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?…” Jehoshaphat pointed towards the people as he continued. “…And they have lived in it and have built for You in it a sanctuary…” He then turned his hands towards the Temple standing before him. “…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.’…” Tears streamed down Jehoshaphat’s face as he recalled the promise of the Lord.
Taking a deep breath he presented their current crisis to the God of their fathers; the God of promise. “…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 or Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy – behold, they reward us by coming to derive us out of Your possession, in which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not execute judgment on them?…”
Jehoshaphat’s hands clasp the front of his robe is desperation as he states for ALL to hear the utter dependence of his people on their God. “…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” (verses 6-12).
Jehoshaphat is spent. He drops his head and his hands at his sides and simply stands before the Lord, humbled and waiting. All Judah waits with him from the smallest child to the eldest man and woman.
But the silence is broken by Jahaziel. He is one of the Levites that Jehoshaphat had been meeting with earlier. The Spirit of the Lord has taken hold of him and he rises up.
“Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you,…” Jahaziel looks right at Jehoshaphat as he voices the very words of the Lord. “Do NOT be afraid and do NOT be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not your but God’s…”
Jahaziel has the attention of every man, woman and child. They wait with baited breath to hear the Lord’s plan.
“…Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will fing 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.’…”
Jahaziel looked out among the people. He made eye contact with as many of them as he could as he gave his final encouragement and the promise of the Lord. “… DO NOT be afraid and DO NOT be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you” (verses 15-17).
From the king to the lowest servant, ALL Judah fell on their faces before the Lord. This was not an easy feat as they were crowded together. They ended by one lying on top of another, and another and still another. None complained or jostled for place. They all gave thanks to their God.
They had petitioned their God and He had heard them and answered them in their time of need. All that was left to do was to follow His command and watch His deliverance. EVERY heart was full of expectancy and commitment to the Lord’s command. They had heard the stories of old, and now they would be living one of their own.
After a while the people began to rise and make their way to their homes or tents. There they would prepare for the morning.
Before the sun had even risen above the hills surrounding Jerusalem the men of Judah assembled in the wilderness of Tekoa. Jehoshaphat stood before the assembly once again. He called out to them.
“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” (verse 20b, emphasis added by me).
Jehoshaphat gathered the Levites who had come to the assembly in their holy attire. They had been appointed to go before the people and sing praises to the Lord. Jehoshaphat walked with them to the east end of the wilderness of Tekoa and leading towards the wilderness of Jeruel. Jehoshaphat would not lead the people with the Levites but he would follow close behind. He would NOT hide in the rear but lead his people in walking in the command of the Lord.
As the procession made its way from one wilderness to the next, the Levites sang out “Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever” (verse 21b). They sang this over and over and over again, giving courage to all who followed.
Ahead of the Levites who sang out in praise, the Lord was working His miracles. As soon as the praises started and beyond even the sight of any from Judah the battle began.
The men of the great multitude began to turn on one another as the Lord confused them. The men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, killing all within sight. And when they had destroyed the inhabitants of Mount Seir, the men of Ammon and Moab turned on one another until not one man was left standing.
Judah continued their march across the wilderness to the appointed place. They heard only the reverberating song of the Levites. The praises of the Lord brought courage and faith to each man as they moved towards whatever the Lord had in store for them.
This was the day Jehoshaphat KNEW was coming and rather than fear the wrath of God that had been promised to go out, he trusted in the promise they had ALL received. The Lord had heard them. And because their hearts were set on Him, He was answering.
(to be continued)
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Father God, I can’t imagine the excitement in Judah that day and night. Were any afraid? Did they all trust in Your deliverance? Did the excitement of what was to come keep them awake that night? It had to be worse that a child waiting for Christmas morning!
You didn’t do all the work. You required something from them. You could have easily defeated their enemy without them even leaving their beds but You required them to act on Your promise. If they had been too afraid to go or even to afraid to sing of Your deliverance, would the outcome have been different? I have a feeling it would.
You require something of me too. You require me to step out in faith and move into what You have for my life. Some days and some ways are easier to do this than others. You know how hard it is for me not to know for certain how things will work or where the money is coming from. YOU have ALWAYS been there to catch me during the times I didn’t have any answers for these types of questions. But ONLY when I put the problem IN YOUR HANDS. When I tried to work them out on my own I wound up with a GREAT BIG MESS! THANK YOU that You never left me in those messes but brought me back out to a place where I could once again stand firm while leaning on YOU. I trust You STILL with our future as things in my nation are unsettled. I KNOW I am SAFE in YOUR hands! I can’t wait to see what lies at the mouth of the wilderness where You have been hard at work!!!