By Nicole McLeod
Open in your Bibles to 2 Chronicles 20 and the prayer of King Jehoshaphat one of Judah’s greatest kings who walked in the ways of the Lord, though he made some ungodly errors and alliances along the way. This chapter chronicles a time in his reign when he received an alarming report that a vast coalition army was coming to wipe them out, and were closing in. What did King Jehoshaphat do? He gathered his people together to seek God and prayed what has been called: "One of the most sensible, pious and elegant prayers offered in the OT”
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites [ a ] came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A vast army is coming against you from Edom , [ b ] from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar’ (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to enquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Moabites (offspring of Lot), Ammonites and Meunites - an Arabian tribe living in Edom (Esau’s decedents) – these were all ancestral enemies of Judah, who lived east of the Jordan river. They had come around the south end of the dead sea as far north as Engedi. Jehoshaphat, alarmed, called upon the nation to join with him in humility and sincerity to appeal to God, and seek him for help, in united prayer with fasting before the Temple. Prayer was the most powerful weapon they had, and it is our most powerful weapon.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not [ carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 1 Cor 10:4-5:
Our most powerful asset in any battle we face is prayer. It is our first resort as believers, not our last resort. We’ll see from this true story how this combination of prayer (vs. 1-13) and then the prophesy (God’s Word - answer) (vs. 14-17) and their Praise and worship (18-27) … brought about a great victory and profit - without a sword ever drawn.
5 Then ( King) Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard
6 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.
7 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.’
10 “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. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance.
12 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.”
13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
The king, before his people, openly confessing that he did not have the answer- no battle plan, no strategy against this coalition of enemies. Their only hope was to pray to God and stand before Him – at the temple of the Lord - in total dependence on the One whose power and goodness could protect Judah when nothing else could.
He asks God to judge them – they had no power or might against this great enemy and confessed to God “ We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
This prayer is by no means a confession of ignorance. This prayer is rich with wisdom, understanding and truth – as his faith and prayer rests upon God’s everlasting historical faithfulness to His people, and on His gift of the land to their fathers.
He reminds the people of God’s Sovereign power (vs 6) God’s grace in giving them the Land as Abraham’s decedents – a covenant He upholds with them (7) God’s promises of his presence (8) ( God’s promise to deliver them if they would seek Him before His temple for He is faithful and they are his treasured possession (9-11) and he closes with a plea to God in their utter dependence on Him (12). It is a powerful prayer – full of God’s promises – these are times where memorizing scriptures and stand on His Word and promises - it protects us against the all-out assaults of the enemy to guard our hearts and minds and keep us in peace.
How many of you have verse 12 starred and underlined! This is one of the most touching expressions of trust in God I know of in the Bible! “We don’t know what to do” This is a prayer I have prayed for many years raising my teenagers – and I find myself praying almost daily for myself and for those I pray for – as honestly, I really don’t know what to do in the moment, but I know to l do 3 things:
- Pray: look to God, to pray, to seek God in His Word and to trust His promises and Praise Him for who he is – so these things I do. In each of our lives, there are those times when we may not know what to do or even what to pray for; but God gives this assuring promise in Romans
And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27)
2. Seek God in His Word! The Holy Spirit may bring to remembrance verses of truth we need to help us and inspire us. One of the names of God: Wonderful Counsellor describes what a friend we have in Jesus. He always knows what to do.
*“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33–34)
We all have people coming to us saying, “What should I do? I don’t know what to do!” Say, “I don’t know what to do, but I know someone who does. Let's ask Him.” And then pray with them. Let’s see what God’s Word has to say. Our Wonderful Counselor helps us, but we must turn to Him for counsel, take His counsel, trust His counsel
3.Praise the Lord for who He is! We need to - like Jehoshaphat trust in God’s power, purposes, promises, and providence
“ And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, …. a Levite and descendant of Asaph , who stood in the assembly. 15 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. 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, 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 great immediate answer God gave as the Levite prophet Jahaziel spoke these words.
God knew the plans of the attacking armies precisely and He relayed this information to the king and people of Judah. And God told them tomorrow - march down against them and just to stand firm, and to believe that they would see the deliverance of the LORD .
These are similar words to what King David spoke when he went out to meet Goliath, and similar also to Moses words when the Egyptian army was closing in on them at the Red Sea… Exodus 14:13-14. 13 Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’
Many of you know the verse in Zech 4:6 “Not by might, nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord…”
“Never doubt in the dark what God has spoken in the light”
18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD , the God of Israel, with a very l oud voice.
They bowed down, fell down, stood up in worship and praise to God. Notice they began to praise and worship Him based on His Word to them, in faith and trust - before the battle was faced and won. For they sought the Lord He heard their voice and delivered them from all their fears
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
– 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love (Faithful Hessed love) endures forever.”
That’s a different way to organize an army – but Joshua did this too – Praise first! And in this battle, the singers – worship team, inspired the people with their words of encouragement to trust the Lord as they marched ahead of the army. 22 As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another .
24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.
God caused confusion among their enemies who turned against themselves and slaughtered one another before Jehoshaphat’s army even arrived on the scene. similar to God’s intervention in Gideons day (Judges 7:15-23).
25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. God won the battle for them! 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the LORD . This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day.
This Hebrew word means blessing. Even a valley can become a blessing if we learn how to praise the Lord in it. Prayer changes things prophesy (the word of God) and Praise changes things. 27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lyres and trumpets. 29 The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. It is God who gives peace and rest.
- What are some things that Jehoshaphat’s prayer teaches us about what to do in times of crisis or in times of difficult decision making... When problems come,
First, Pray: we seek the Lord in prayer – and lift our eyes to him.
If our eyes are on others we will be distressed, if our eyes are on ourselves, we will be depressed, but if our eyes are on the Lord we will be blessed!
Second , we hear the Lord in His Word , we listen to His voice – His word, as it is a source of faith, wisdom and courage to march forward and face whatever he is calling us to face. It tells us what to do. When we don’t know what to do it is a sure guide, when we do know what to do, it is a way God can correct us and lead us in His ways which are higher. Obeying God’s word is the only sure way we are given, and it requires faith as we see in this story. His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path through everything we face.
Third, Praise the Lord – they sang the Lords praises even before seeing the victory, it was by faith and confidence that what God has spoken He will accomplish. Jehoshaphat was a good king, but he also – like us – made mistakes too – bad alliances and choices. Sometimes God uses our failures to bring us to the point where we just don’t know what to do, and we call on Him in His grace. He is our wonderful counsellor and we need Him. God listens to a heart that is crying out for help. Jehoshaphat is praying to God in heaven. He knows that with God nothing is impossible.
Prayer: Lord help each one of us and fight our battles for us as we look to You, listen to you and praise Your Holy Name. We don’t know what to do, but Lord we know to pray, to ask, seek and knock and pray Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in all that concerns Your people today. Help us stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. O, Lord, we join with the Psalmist in saying, “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel.” We love you Lord Jesus. You are our wonder of a counselor. Amen.