Judah marches towards the enemy at the Lord’s command. When they round the bend they see His deliverance!
This is such an AMAZING story! I have been champing at the bit to get to it. I LOVE the stories where God shows His hand. And this one is one of the biggies! Let’s join the men of Judah as they move into the wilderness of Jeruel. But before we march in, I want to back up to the night before. In our last time together I rushed through that night and it got merely a mention. But much more had to have happened that night as the men of Judah waited for morning. Waited to see what God would do. We will rejoin our story as the people begin to leave the courtyard of the Temple.
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The atmosphere of praise is so thick you could reach out and grab a handful and plop it into your mouth. Voices raised in praise ring out from every quarter of the city. Throngs of people lay in heaps, one upon another in submission to the Lord.
After an hour of continual praise the voices begin to quiet. People begin to rise from the ground in tunics stained with their own tears as well as those of their neighbors. No man was an island in this sea of praise. All were connected in spirit and in body. Those closest to the center will have to wait until their brothers and sisters leave first.
Jehoshaphat is the last to leave. He watches as his people slowly rise and begin to make their way back to their homes or into the surrounding countryside to erect lodgings for the night. As they leave he calls out to them, echoing the words spoken in their presence by the Lord.
“DO NOT BE AFRAID! DO NOT BE DISMAYED! THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S!”
The people call back in response; “We WILL see His deliverance!”
Jehoshaphat’s heart is filled with excitement. His whole life he has longed to see the hand of the Lord in a mighty move. He wishes that the circumstances were not so dire but also knows that a mighty work would not be needed otherwise. As he watches the people leave his heart also pleads with them. He prays that they stay strong and do not doubt the words of the Lord. This is why he keeps calling out to them this reminder.
Throughout Jerusalem and the surrounding hills people prepare for the long night. They have heard the words of the Lord from the mouth of His servant Jahaziel. They have heard it repeated to them by their king. It is now up to each of them to burn these words into their own hearts.
Knives are pulled from their sheaves and branches are cut from the trees to prepare shelters. Because of the number of people community shelters were erected where several families would share together. The sheep and goat herds of the local shepherds were also opened to the people in need of food. A spirit of community filled the countryside as they all considered the words of the Lord and what to expect tomorrow.
Conversations around the fire pits drifted through the night air. At one fire pit the conversation sounds something like this:
“We should sharpen our knives. They have been dulled by the work of the trees.”
“But we were told we wouldn’t need to fight.”
“Shouldn’t we be ready though, just in case?”
“I don’t know. That might say to the Lord that we don’t trust Him.”
“What do you think we will see tomorrow? How will He fight for us?”
“I wish I knew. I have a hard time waiting without having exact answers.”
Quiet settles for a few moments as the participants think about what the next day will bring. A child’s voice is heard.
“Aba, tell me the story of the waters heaping up on both sides and the people walking through on dry land. They didn’t have to fight that day either.”
Some heads begin to nod in remembrance as the father recounts the story. Others think of the elements that were on hand for that miracle. “There is no sea to part and drown the enemy with in the wilderness” one listener muses to himself.
As the father’s recounting of the story draws to a close the child claps his hands and exclaims; “All they had to do was follow the Lord’s command and HE did the rest. The horse and the rider were thrown into the sea!”
“That is exactly right my son. All that was needed was obedience and trust. The Lord did the rest.”
“Just like He promised for tomorrow” the young voice exclaimed.
“True again my son. How wise you are. Thank you for reminding us.”
The father looked to his wife and signaled her to put the child to bed. He noticed the twinkle in her eye that betrayed the fact that she had a hand in the child’s questions. He heart soared with pride that she had fed faith to the men gathered around the fire that night. She was a true gift from the Lord!
Not every heart was settled that night as sleep eventually covered the countryside. Some still held small pockets of fear. Others harbored plans of how they might ‘help the Lord’ if necessary. A few even held thoughts of fleeing all together. The majority held determination to follow the Lord’s command, wherever it may lead.
This last group is where the king’s heart fully stayed. But even though he KNEW without a single doubt that the Lord would fight this battle for his people, he was making plans.
Before leaving the Temple Jehoshaphat had called the Levites together. He had some instructions for them.
“When we assemble together in the morning you are to wear your best priestly robes. I want all the singers and musicians to gather together. They will have a special part to play tomorrow.”
Finally sleep even came to Jehoshaphat.
As the first rays of dawn were just beginning to lighten the night sky, men rose from their places of sleep. Women rose and prepared simple meals to carry them through the day ahead. Quiet good-bye’s were exchanged and the men headed to the wilderness of Tekoa. None needed to tell them where to assemble. It seemed to come on instinct. It might also have had something to do with the fact that their king was standing with a group of Levites arrayed in their finest robes in that same wilderness.
Jehoshaphat was organizing the Levites as the men assembled. When all were in attendance Jehoshaphat addressed the company. He stood on the bed of his chariot so all could hear.
“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).
A rousing cheer rose up from the ranks of the men assembled. Jehoshaphat stepped down from his chariot and joined the people. With the Levites in the lead and Jehoshaphat following right behind, Judah marched towards the answer the Lord had promised. The Levites sang praises to the Lord and the men echoed with shouts of joy as Judah made their way through one wilderness into the next. None knew exactly what waited for them but all were committed to follow the Lord’s command.
The watchtower of the wilderness was in sight. This is the place where the Lord told Judah to hold fast. The men of Judah began to fan out to take up positions. Some were excited while others were warry but all fell in line and marched forward as a unit. Once they reached the ascent their mouths fell open.
Lying below them was their enemy. Not a man among them stirred. They all lay dead at the base of the ascent. Too many to count lay wasted by the hand of the Lord. HE had indeed fought this battle for His people.
Shouts of praise began to rise from the ranks of Judah as they looked on at the Lord’s deliverance. NONE doubted. NONE wondered if it could be a trap. And none moved from his place until Jehoshaphat gave the order.
“Gather the spoil! For the Lord has provided for His people this also.”
Men ran down into the valley and began going over the items brought by the hoard. Swords, shields, armor, food, clothing, tents, sheep, goats, gold and silver articles and many other precious things were found among the fallen. The men of Judah began to gather them into heaps. Piles grew as each body was relieved of its precious items and the surrounding countryside yielded up its fruits of occupation. EVERY man had more than enough.
For three days the men of Judah moved among the dead and their camps bringing out the spoil. Hundreds of men were assigned to burn the dead as leaving this size of decay lying open would pollute the land and draw animal predators that would pose a danger to the people of Judah. Once all had been gathered and all that remained were burnt bones the men of Judah assembled to give thanks to the Lord.
“Give thanks O Judah for the blessings of the Lord! His STEADFAST LOVE endures FOREVER! And blessings He has poured out upon His people! This valley will forever be known as the Valley of Beracah (Valley of Blessing)!”
The men of Judah rose up with one voice and praised the Lord. Without a single man lifting a blade in offense or defense, the armies that came against them had fallen. The Lord had also provided more spoil than could be counted. EVERY man would return home in abundance. ALL because they followed the Lord’s command.
After the ceremony of thanks giving was completed Jehoshaphat appointed again the Levites to lead the people back to Jerusalem with songs of praise, accompanied by harps, lyres and trumpets. The Levites led the procession right up to the court of the House of the Lord. As the men marched after the Levites and Jehoshaphat their families joined in behind. It was a joyous occasion for all of Judah. One that would live on in stories alongside the other great miracles of the Lord.
The stories of this day would not be contained by the borders of Judah but would spread to ALL the nations around them. NONE would dare raise their swords against the people of Judah for fear of becoming another story for them to sing about.
Judah had rest as long as Jehoshaphat ruled for his heart was wholly devoted to the Lord. There still remained work to do in the hearts of the people and Jehoshaphat would ensure that there were teachers for them for the rest of his life. He knew however that he could not mandate love, even for the Lord. Some of the high places remained for the hearts of the people were not yet fully devoted to the Lord.
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Jehoshaphat has become one of my favorite kings. He went out among the people to try and bring them to the Lord. He set up teachers, priests and judges to help guide the people. And he ensured that those serving the people KNEW Who they were ultimately doing the work for.
Jehoshaphat made mistakes, and we will see another one of them next time we meet, but his heart never wavered. He LOVED the Lord with his whole heart! He repented when confronted with his sin, or at least I believe he did. And when the day came when his judgement was due for his sins he knew exactly where to go for help; his God. I would not be surprised to learn that there were idols in the spoils gathered by Judah but that Jehoshaphat had them either melted down for their gold or destroyed. NO WAY would he let the people bring other gods in from a battle so clearly won by the TRUE God. The ONLY living God. The SAME God Whom I serve today. The One who LOVES me with all my faults too.
Father God, there have been times in my life when I thought I was forging the right path, only to find out I was way off track. There have also been times when we fought through difficulties side by side. And there are the AMAZING times when I didn’t have to lift a finger in the battle, only follow Your command. For ALL these times, I want to thank You and praise You. Thank You for bringing me back to Your path when I strayed. Thank You for never leaving me to fight on my own. And thank You for the victories in ALL the areas of my life; even the blessings of watching Your words flow from my fingers as we spend time together! SO MANY times YOU have brought forth YOUR heart when we sit together. THANK YOU for allowing me to share those moments with others. Keep me EVER searching Your word and coming to You for “Story Time!”