Wednesday, March 16
Reader: “Give thanks to the Lord”
Response: “his faithful love endures forever!”
Scripture: II Chronicles 20:1-24
After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. They are already at Hazazon-tamar.” (This was another name for En-gedi.)
Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.
Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. He prayed, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’
“And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them. Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.
He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.
Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”
After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:
“Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever!”
At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.
We’re all well acquainted with kings David and Solomon, but king Jehoshaphat is another matter is my guess. In this passage we gain insight into Judah’s leader. There were times when he showed wisdom. In appointing judges, his charge to them was to remember not to please the people, but to please the Lord in their judgments. Fear the Lord and judge with integrity. Impressive advice. If only that were the case today in our courts. This particular advice comes from the previous chapter.
Israel had a continual problem with the Moabites and Ammonites dating back to the Israelites’ conclusion of forty years in the wilderness when they sought to enter Canaan. The Moabites and Ammonites refused to let them pass through their lands. You might recall those two tribes date back 1200 years earlier when the father of Moab and Ammon was none other than Lot and their mothers were Lot’s daughters! Sin always pays in full. Now the tribes are coming after Israel again.
What strikes me about Jehoshaphat is his response when confronted with his own fears. He immediately sought the LORD for guidance. He also showed leadership in ordering all his people to fast. In this time of crisis the people in the surrounding villages all came to Jerusalem to join together as a community to strengthen and encourage one another. Notice they did not “go it alone” in facing the crisis.
I can’t help but think of the health stresses of the past couple of years and the importance of the role of the community, especially in the church. The strength of not being together has adversely affected some people. Isolation has contributed in a large way to loneliness, fear, and depression. In some cases in-person fellowship has taken a hit as people have gotten used to not attending their churches.
Jehoshaphat understood the importance of community in moments of crisis. The people came together to seek the LORD’S help as one. Their king led in prayer in front of all his people. It was important for his subjects to hear and see their leader as he sighted God’s past history of faithfulness to his people. Notice he started with bottom line truths. Each phrase of his prayer has God as the central focus. His prayer then cited the Israelites past responses when faced with the calamities of war, plagues, or famine of coming to God’s dwelling place, the Temple, to cry out in prayer.
It is not until this point that he gets to addressing their current situation. His transparency is childlike. In a word, the bad guys are coming to get us, won’t you stop them? They are bigger than we are and we don’t know what to do. We’re looking to you for help. So God stepped forth in the person of Jahaziel, a priest. His words were astonishing! Don’t be discouraged people, this battle is the LORD’S, not yours. March out against them, but you don’t need to fight, SING! Then the best word of all, “the LORD is with you!” They concluded the time together by all bowing down and worshiping their faithful God.
As they marched out the next morning, their leader again gave them a word of encouragement and you know the rest! I am challenged by this passage to see how the leader and people responded when truly facing a life and death situation. They came together and prayed and worshiped. Their eyes were continually on the LORD rather than being consumed with the immediate crisis. They were realistic and did not deny there were Moabites and Ammonites coming to kill them, but the enemy was not their focus. We’ve been given a good model of response as we deal with some of the serious challenges we face. Keep our minds set on God rather than on the crisis or our fears of what might happen.
Music: “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Calvin Alumni Singers
Bonus: “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Diane Bish, Organ
Prayer: Write your blessed Name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved, that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from your love. Be to me a strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life. ―Thomas à Kempis, 1380–1471, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.38