The passage I’m referring to is found in 2 Chronicles 20 and it’s a great example of how King Jehoshaphat handled the news that not one, not two but three enemy armies were on their way to make war on Him.
When was the last time you got earth shattering, soul rocking news that blindsided you in a way that you didn’t know what to do? Was it last month, last week or even this morning? Well, a careful look at the action steps that Jehoshaphat applied will give us some insights into how I believe God wants us to handle alarming news when it comes our way.
Notice what Jehoshaphat had to deal with and what he did first…
1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.
He got word that three evil armies were on their way to totally destroy him and his people, and his first response flies in the face of what many of us would do if we were in his position as commander and chief.
I mean think about it, wouldn’t the first order of business be something like, assemble the army?
I did a little research and found an interesting insight that makes this first action step even more amazing to me. When the news reached the ears of the King, the armies were already in En Gedi.
En Gedi was about 25 miles away from where Jehoshaphat was! 25 miles, now I know they didn’t have jeeps and hummers and tanks, but 25 miles when an army is bent on war is not very far away.
Knowing the distance, knowing the severity of three armies and knowing what kind of ramifications the phrase “make war” means, Jehoshaphat still applied the action step that we many times skip over in our haste to mount an attack in our own strength, an attack that is futile in our power.
Jehoshaphat took his fear to God first.
I think it’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t shy away from letting us know that Jehoshaphat was scared, in fact 2 Chronicles tells us he was ALARMED! Now that’s a pretty strong descriptor of fear if you ask me.
Alarmed…and his first response is to take his fear to God.
How does that apply to what you’re currently going through? In your zeal to get to work and mount the attack or defend the fortress have you skipped the first step?
The next thing that Jehoshaphat does is pretty amazing as well, and I think it gives us another key insight into where His heart was and what he knew to be true about the people he was leading.
After taking his fear to the Lord, he assembles the people and prays a pretty lengthy prayer considering the fact that 3 armies are still bearing down on him and there is still no sign of “army assembling” going on.
Check out his prayer…
"O LORD, God of our fathers, 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. 7 O 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? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 'If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, 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.'
A couple questions come to my mind as I read his prayer. One is “I wonder how close the armies are now?” and “Why give a history lesson instead of asking God to destroy the enemies?”
It’s interesting to me that in that moment when he has the entire country together in one place he decides to remind the people who God is and how He has been there for them in the past.
I think that’s the next action step that we can apply to our lives as well when we are in the midst of dealing with alarming news…Remind yourself who God is and How He has been there for you in the past.
It’s also very interesting to me that the request for God to show up comes after the reminding of how faithful He’s always been, and how in spite of that faithfulness His people have made poor choices over the years, and yet God still remains steady and true. What a testimony!
So, finally Jehoshaphat comes out and asks God to do something to help His people. Notice though how open and vulnerable he is with his request…
12 O 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 upon you."
Ok, can you picture the scene? The Commander and Chief, the Top Dog, The Big Honcho, The KING is standing in front of his people, three armies bearing down on them “bent on war”, and He delivers the statement, “we’ve got nothing!”
Now, to me that’s either brilliant, idiotic or faith filled (or maybe even a combination of all three). I don’t know if I’d have that kind of honest faith, knowing my position as King to stand there and deliver that kind of message, but that’s exactly what He did, and exactly where we need to be as well.
The truth of the matter is that in our own strength we’ve got no power to face what’s coming at us either; we need to be totally dependent on God.
I love how he ends His prayer because even though he knows they have no power, He also knows His God does, and he proclaims to God and everyone listening that He trusts that His God will show up and save His people. Why? Maybe because that’s been His track record all along.
Jehoshaphat was honest and specific in his faith filled prayer request.
Are you taking your request to God in faith and specifically asking Him to answer?
What happens next in this amazing encounter is so cool to me, and it reminds me of how important it is to pray, trust God, share with others, listen to Godly counsel and in the face of your alarming situation trust that when God answers it may not be in the way we want or even expect…and that’s ok, He’s God!
After seeking God and honestly bringing his request to Him, the alarming fact was that Jehoshaphat still didn’t have his “marching orders” that is until he listened to Jahaziel…a Levite!
Jahaziel steps forward and delivers the plan from the Lord…
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. 16 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. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.' "
What a plan, again it’s either brilliant, idiotic or faith filled (or maybe even a combination of all three). In essence the battle plan against three armies is…march, stand and watch!
Another thing I love about Jehoshaphat is that he was so locked in to who his God was and how He had shown Himself powerful in the past that when the plan was given, even though it sounded crazy, I think his attitude was like “yeah, let’s do this because God’s fame is really going to spread after this!”
Is that where you are in your current situation? Are you listening for what God wants you to do, and when He delivers the plan are you ready to step out in faith and Obey His Plan even when it seems crazy?
Well, the rest of the story is just as incredible as Jehoshaphat obeys the plan and on the way even adds a little siss boom bah to the action, as he sends the worship team on ahead of the army to praise God in advance, how cool is that!
Jehoshaphat obeyed, God showed up and the people watched the deliverance of the Lord as the armies turned on each other and they were completely destroyed.
God’s fame spread among the nations, and God’s people’s faith was deepened all over again (at least until the next alarming situation came along), but that’s another story for another time.
What alarming news are you facing today? What’s your action plan in dealing with it?
I know for me I want to continually be in a place where even when the situation looks bleak at best, my faith and action plan are like Jehoshaphat’s remembering that "Eyes on the Lord" is not weaponless!