Today’s Scripture lesson involves more than the threat of battle. Jerusalem was about to be under attack. Three different groups of people had joined forces and were making their way towards Jerusalem to attack God’s people. Together, they comprised a vast army. Someone came to alert Jehoshaphat, the King, and Jehoshaphat took action by gathering everyone together, calling for a fast, and seeking God in prayer. We pick up the story in II Chronicles 20:6ff:
2 Chronicles 20:6-15 “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.’ 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 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.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. 14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel . . . 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.
Have you ever been in a situation where you realized you were outnumbered, or outsmarted, or in over your head without power to have victory? Have you ever been facing a battle, and you didn’t even know where to start? A circumstance was coming after you and you felt like you were being ganged up on? You had no plan in place, and the circumstances were only gaining on you, getting worse, and were threatening to overtake you? That’s exactly where Jehoshaphat found himself. He had no power and no plan.
Let me point out a nuance that could be easy to miss in the story. Look at verse 2 of II Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat was told that the collective army heading towards Jerusalem was coming again him. He was told: “The vast army is coming against YOU, Jehoshaphat.” This was personal. How Jehoshaphat handled this situation, however, was going to have an impact on the entire southern kingdom living in and around Jerusalem. What was Jehoshaphat going to do? He was the king. He was responsible to do something. He had a responsibility to his people to protect them. Yet, at his own admission he had no power and no plan.
Before I outline some steps to take when you have no plan and no power, let me say that the battle or the crisis or the calamity that you are facing is not ever what is most important. What is most important is what you do in the face of those challenges. In the end, your life won’t be defined by the crisis, but by the decisiveness, the determination, the character and commitment that characterize your actions in the face of those difficulties.
In addition, what you do FIRST will determine what follows, so the first steps are the critical ones when you are engaging in battle. The first step any person without power or a plan should take is prayer.
Jehoshaphat (Vs. 3) resolved to inquire of the Lord. It was time to pray. In the natural it would seem it was time to gather weapons. It was time to hold strategy meetings. It was time to fight, yet Jehoshaphat knew no fighting could take place that would bring victory until prayers had gone up. Many of us who are “doers” or “take charge” kind of people are ready for action when there is a crisis. We want to not just stand there, but we want to “do” something. For persons who are like that, prayer may seem too passive an activity to be the first step when times seem to call for aggressive action.
Listen, Jehoshaphat had no plan. The only way to develop a plan is to ask God for His plan as it will always be better than anything we could outline. You dare not rush into any battle without God’s plan, without God’s strategy. Prayer helps us discern what God’s will is in every circumstance. God has a will for your life; not just for your life in general. But God has a will for every battle, for every conflict, for every relationship, for every business deal, for every decision, for every moment of work and rest in your life.
Prayer isn’t just a way to unload our burdens, but it is also the method through which God will communicate His will, His plans for us. We talk to God when we pray, but we are also supposed to listen to Him speak back to us during times of prayer. What good would it do if we went to the doctor and said, “Doctor, my back hurts, my blood pressure is high, I can’t sleep at night, and my vision is blurred” only then to get off the table and say, “Thanks for listening” and leave the doctor’s office? We need a prescription. We need a treatment plan. Jehoshaphat talked to God, but he also expected God to have something to say about the battle. I love how verse 3 put it, “He resolved to inquire of the Lord.” Jehoshaphat was going to get answers from God. He was asking God what to do and expected God to speak back to him.
Jehoshaphat also had no power. The way to obtain power is to connect to God through the power of prayer. When Jehoshaphat prayed in verse six he knew he was talking to the Source of his power. He said, “Power and might are in your hand, God.” Too many Christians are trying to fight spiritual battles in the natural realm. I happen to believe every battle you face, whether financial, physical, emotional or relational has a spiritual component to it because how you deal with it will determine what kind of glory God can gain from it. So, since every battle has a spiritual component, it has to be dealt with through a spiritual process. You can’t just make up your mind to win a battle and see victory. You don’t just educate yourself about your problem and find victory. You don’t just develop a network of friends that all take up a sword on your behalf and then you win the battle. You don’t just invest enough money in the right places in order to win life’s battle. You don’t just rely on human procedures and medications and win health battles. All of those are tools, but they are only human tools unless God sees fit to inspire and empower them. It all has to start with Him, and the way to connect God’s plans and power to your battles is to pray.
When he confessed in his prayer that he had no power and no plan, Jehoshaphat was basically telling God, “God, You are the One who will have to supply both because in myself, I don’t have what it takes to win this battle.” What Jehoshaphat was expressing was his total dependence upon God which is the only way we have hope to win life’s battles. We are never relying more fully on God than when we are seeking His power and His plan in prayer.
Well, since time was of the essence God immediately replied to Jehoshaphat’s prayer. He spoke through a man named Jahaziel. Read what he said beginning with verse 15. “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, 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 great relief must have come over Jehoshaphat. The battle wasn’t his. It was God’s. Paraphrased: “God’s got this.” His words were reassuring, for sure, but they didn’t mean Jehoshaphat would just sit back, relax, and watch God work. No. The second thing a person with no power and no plan has to do is to:
Position themselves for victory. Jehaziel said in verse 17 that even though they wouldn’t have to fight, they needed to get into a fighting stance or fighting posture. He told them to take up their positions. The position of a person in battle is key to their victory.
Let me suggest the position we are to assume.
Verse 18: “Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD.” I can see there would be times in battle where a person would need to get low to the ground so as to be hidden from their enemy, but what do we make of the fact that Jehoshaphat hit the deck and put his face to the ground? This hardly seems like a time for worship. Doesn’t worship make most sense after deliverance? I mean, bowing down in worship to God is appropriate when you have something to thank Him for. When the battle is over and you are victorious it makes sense to honor God. The victory would give you the reason you need to really worship, right?
Listen believers, we worship not because we have won a battle, but because we are living in a constant state of victory.
Jehoshaphat knew that God would never go into battle and not come out victorious. It was HIS battle, right? If you have trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord, then every battle you face is God’s to fight! You can be assured the victory is yours because God will never lose. You can worship Him before the outcome is seen and through that worship you express that you possess the victory by faith.
Look at verse 19: “Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.” After they all got low and bowed in worship, some stood to stand and shout the praises of God! This was an extended time of worship and praise! That is the kind of posture that will take us with confidence into the battles of life. That is the kind of posture that will keep our focus on God and not on the enemy who seems to be drawing closer and closer.
I believe this kind of posture and confidence is expressed in a song by Chris Tomlin called “Who Shall I Fear?” I want you to look and listen to it with me this morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzIABaImiK4
Worshipping and praising God ahead of life’s battles and as we walk into those battles reminds us it is God’s battle, and He can’t lose. Remember, though God is fighting the battle, the Israelites are positioning themselves for the battle as if they, themselves were doing the fighting. And the positions they chose involved bowing low, praising high and singing loudly! Look at 2 Chronicles 20:20-21 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 endures forever.”
Notice, the Israelites praised God when they talked to Him about the battle. They praised God after He talked back to them about the battle, and they praised God on their way into the battle. Their position was one of constant praise. “The singers and worshippers led the army into this battle. It was clear that Judah expected a battle, because they brought the army. Yet it was also clear that they expected a supernatural battle because they let the singers and worshippers go before the army.” (http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/1420.htm) I know, some of you are thinking, “Wow, throw the choir under the bus! Just let the choir go first so the choir could be killed and the rest would have time to run and save their lives. No! They weren’t expecting to have to fight or their army would have gone before the singers!
You see, moving into the battle in a spirit of praise and worship helped to maintain their faith. Praise and worship became a platform for the demonstration of their faith.
It also became a tool through which God did a miracle as just after they started singing (Vs. 22) God set ambushes against the enemy, confusion set in and the three enemies started killing each other instead of trying to kill Israel. The word for “ambushes” really means “ambushers,” so it is likely to think God dispatched His angels onto the scene to fight for Israel.
Now it wasn’t that the the singing of the choir was so horrible that it caused mass chaos and confusion. I have heard a few choirs in my day that might be able to accomplish such in their own strength and power. No, God honored the worship of His people. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. Though they couldn’t see the victory, through their praise and worship they showed the faith that it was theirs. God delights to glorify Himself when we demonstrate faith. Only faith-filled people can worship at the battle line.
God does want you there, though . . . at the battle line. He does want you to express faith in Him. He does want you there to witness the things He does. He also wants you there because there is something for you when the battle is over. Pray, Praise and Plunder! Look at what happened after they prayed and positioned themselves for the battle: 2 Chronicles 20:25 “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.” Three days to collect it all! That was a lot of stuff! After three days of hauling plunder, they gathered together on day four to continue praising the Lord. They went to Jerusalem to praise Him some more and they added in some harps, lutes and trumpets. Imagine the intensity of that praise! They expected to win the battle. They didn’t even expect to prosper from it.
Listen, those who show up to the battle line in faith won’t walk away empty handed. God will teach you something, show you something, or give you something that will enrich your life. They walked away not only with peace, but they walked away better off economically because three groups of people had come to make war against them. Because of the battle they were better off than they would have been had there been no battle.
Let me show you one other way they benefited because of the battle: 2 Chronicles 20:29 “The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.” Everybody else thought twice about messing with Israel in the days ahead. Listen, whatever you are battling involves more than this moment. God is working ahead for your benefit in your future. You can’t know the way what you are enduring now is creating success and stability for you later, but it will be revealed in time.
How many of you, by a raised hand, would say this morning, “I’m facing a battle in my life?” God wants to talk to you about that battle. He wants you to praise Him in the midst of the battle. The atmosphere of praise when God is the center of the praise is a powerful atmosphere. I invite you to come and talk to Him about your battles. I invite you to exercise faith and come to praise the Lord for what He is doing and will do in your battle. No plan? No power? God has both. Will you come and receive from Him today.