Sunday, April 3, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 56. The Deeds Of King Jehoshpahat Of Judah, Part 3

Prophets And Kings
Day 56
The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah
Part 3

Trouble comes upon Judah in the form of a coalition of nations that want to make war wif em. We studies the first half of this section today and we sees that Jehoshaphat depends on the Lord, not on his large army and not on his weapons.

2 CHRONICLES 20:1-17
Yesterday we saw Jehoshaphat heed the words of the prophet who said he did wrong in allying himself with King Ahab of Israel, so Jehoshaphat remained in his own country, teaching the people about the Lord. He also appointed godly judges in all the districts. Today's events take place following those things, "After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat." (2 Chronicles 20:1) These were idolatrous and warlike tribes, some of whom even had the abominable practice of child sacrifice. In the Old Testament, these peoples come back again and again to trouble Judah and Israel.

"Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, 'A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar." (That is, En Gedi.)" (2 Chronicles 20:2) Although we learned a few days ago that Jehoshaphat had several hundred thousand able-bodied troops, his army is still quite small in comparison to the combined forces of the Canaanites coming against him. He knows his army is too small to meet such a threat.

"Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him." (2 Chronicles 20:3-4) I don't think there's anything wrong with a godly man being alarmed at bad news. We all find ourselves shocked and alarmed when bad news suddenly comes to us. I don't feel it indicates a lack of faith on Jehoshaphat's part because the first thing he does is seek the Lord in his troubles. What a great example he sets for us. We never know when alarming news may come to us but our first reaction should be like Jehoshaphat's: we should resolve to inquire of the Lord. It may be the Lord's will that, after speaking with Him, we also take advantage of the help of a doctor or lawyer or whoever else is able to assist us, but turning to the Lord first is the best decision we can make. 

Imagine if Jehoshaphat had not spent his time in the godly pursuit of traveling throughout the nation and preaching the word of the Lord. Would all the people have come together in one mind and one accord to seek the Lord? Would all the people have immediately obeyed the command to fast and pray? Jehoshaphat has put himself and the nation in the best position they could possibly be in when trouble comes. He has taught the people that their strength is in the Lord and that their help comes from Him. Mortal enemies are nothing when compared to the living God. When these enemies come against the faithful people of God, they are coming against God Himself. His mighty protective hand is on His people and no matter how big the Canaanite army, one word from God is more than enough to wipe them out if He so chooses. This is the God who created everything that exists, the God who preserved a family and all the animals during a global flood, the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and who called the dead to life again. What is an army compared to Him? 

"Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in front of the new courtyard and said: 'Lord, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.'"(2 Chronicles 20:5-6) Beginning our prayer for help by reminding ourselves of the power of God is a wonderful way to encourage ourselves in the faith. Before making his request, Jehoshaphat extols the great power of God. This reminds me of the prayer of the Lord Jesus who began like this, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." (Matthew 6:9) The Lord Jesus began His prayer by reminding Himself and everyone around Him that God's name is to be honored and respected because He is holy and mighty and able to fight for us. 

Jehoshaphat continues, "Our God, did You not drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend?" (2 Chronicles 20:7) This is another awesome example of prayer. After encouraging himself in the strength of the Lord, Jehoshaphat goes on to encourage himself by remembering past victories the Lord has won for the nation. It's helpful to us as well to think back on all the times the Lord has brought us through. How many times has He turned our circumstances around? How many times has He provided for us when we didn't know how we were going to pay our bills? How many times has He healed us when we were sick? How many times has He come through when we didn't see a way through? When making a new request of God, it helps us a great deal to think back on all the times He's answered prayers in the past.

Jehoshaphat displays a grateful spirit by telling the Lord how the people have used the land He gave them, "They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for Your name, saying, 'If calamity comes upon us, we will stand in Your presence before this temple that bears Your name and will cry out to You in our distress, and You will hear us and save us." (2 Chronicles 20:8-9) The people have used the land the Lord gave them to build a temple in His name, a place of worship, a place to bring their offerings for atonement in recognition of their sins, a place to receive forgiveness, a place to pray for help. Jehoshaphat stands where Solomon likely stood at the dedication of temple and said to the Lord, "Hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive." (1 Kings 8:30) 

Now the king gets to the body of his prayer, his plea for help, "But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory You would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession You gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (2 Chronicles 20:10-12) The Lord did not allow Israel to attack the people of Mount Seir because these were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother. He did not allow them to take the land of the Ammonites or the Moabites because these were the descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew. Jehoshaphat points out that Israel was obedient to the Lord in these commands and yet the peoples they spared have been no friend to Israel. These tribes have repaid Israel's kindness with evil. 

Have you ever been betrayed by someone to whom you had shown nothing but kindness? Have you ever had a friend or family member do something so horrendous to you that you were actually in shock? Has anyone you don't even know or barely know done an evil thing to you for no reason? There was a time in my life when someone very close to me and someone I had never even met betrayed me in a way I could never have imagined or predicted. Both were suddenly, in the words of King David, "my enemy without cause". When I went to the Lord in prayer during that time, I couldn't help but do something Jehoshaphat did in the passage above, I pointed out the cleanness of my hands in the whole matter. Jehoshaphat reminds the Lord that Israel obeyed his commands not to harm the descendants of Esau and Lot, but these people have become enemies without cause. He says, "See how they are repaying us?" I think it's fine if we, in a humble spirit, point out to God that someone is repaying our goodness with evil as Jehoshaphat does and as David did in Psalm 35. During my trouble, I often prayed Psalm 35, "Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me...Lord, You have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in Your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me." (Psalm 35:1, 22-24) 

2 Chronicles 20 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It's a chapter the Lord used to minister to me in that particular trouble. It's easy to see why the Bible tells us that King Jehoshaphat walked in the footsteps of his ancestor King David. They both appear to be a men after God's own heart. They both were men who sought the Lord above all else and even though they stumbled from time to time, both were quick to repent when confronted with their mistakes. We can learn a lot from the relationships these men had with the Lord and from how they faced their problems.

After Jehoshaphat completes his prayer to the Lord, the people stand before the temple in silence, and I believe it was an expectant silence. It was the type of silence that indicates something is about to happen. These people prayed in an attitude of faith, expecting God to answer. They prayed like David did when he said, "In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3) "All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord." (2 Chronicles 20:13) I picture the Lord looking down from heaven on His people, looking down at the men and women, the children, the helpless infants, and I know His heart broke for them. I know His compassion and love overwhelmed Him. Of course He is going to act on behalf of those who love Him and seek His face! He knows they are helpless before the great army approaching them and He knows they are looking to Him for victory. Jehoshaphat's army is no match for the combined forces of the nations coming against them. Often in life we are no match for who and what comes against us. We are outnumbered. We see there is no humanly chance of victory. And sometimes that's the best place we can be! Because when we recognize our victory can only come from God, we seek Him and we seek Him with all our hearts. Our faith rises up to a new level when we witness our God going into battle for us. In the future we will be able to step out into bigger projects for the kingdom of our God because we will possess the confidence in our Redeemer to take on great things in His name.

The Lord now answers the prayers of the people in a mighty way, "Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: 'Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you." (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

We have learned in our studies of 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st and 2nd Kings that often the Lord asks people to participate in the battle with Him. There are times when that is necessary to strengthen their faith. But there are other times, like today, when He asks them just to stand firm and witness their victory. In my particular trouble I mentioned earlier today, the Lord used the words of Jahaziel to tell me that my only duty was to stand firm in the Lord, that the battle was not mine but His. There was nothing I, in my human strength, could do but trust in the Lord. The battle was too big and the enemy was too great. 

The victory the Lord won for me didn't happen overnight. It took years. I fell into discouragement from time to time. I stumbled and fell here and there and had to climb back up and march on. But at no time was it a battle I could win in my own strength. At no time was it a victory I was capable of winning without the Lord. He simply asked me to do what He asked Jehoshaphat to do: take up my position and stand firm and wait for God's deliverance. Did the Lord come through for me because I was special? No, He did something for me He will do for any of His children. I messed up a number of times and in a number of ways while waiting for victory. I fell victim to despair and hopelessness. I became weary and wanted to quit. But each time He showed up and strengthened me so I could get on my feet again. The Lord doesn't ask or expect us to be perfect because He knows we aren't perfect. He just asks us to do what is humanly possible to do, in faith, and rely on Him to do the rest. Jehoshaphat understood this. David understood this. That is why the Lord gave them great victories.

On this Sabbath, let's determine in our hearts to seek the Lord. There is little we can do in our own strength and our enemy, the devil, is strong. But greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Sometimes the Lord will ask us to get on the battle line with Him, other times He will ask is to simply stand still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) Seeking Him will tell us which one He is calling us to do. Seeking Him will bring us victory.

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