Isaiah 40:31-Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
We’re talking this morning about worship. I want to specifically talk to you about how worship shapes us into warriors and just how that happens. Let’s walk through II Chronicles 20 together. The outline for this morning’s message is in your bulletin if you would like to follow along or take some notes.
As you are turning to II Chronicles 20 allow me to give you some background information. King Jehoshaphat was one of the good guys, but he wasn’t perfect. He was the 4th King of Israel’s Southern Kingdom which means he was the King of Judah. His dad, King Asa, had been a godly man, and Jehoshaphat had been raised to love God and seek Him with his whole heart. In II Chronicles 17 we read that Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and followed God’s ways rather than the ways Israel had adopted. Verse 5 says, 5 The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD.
He was the kind of King that not only tried to protect his people and manage the political scene, but he sent people throughout the kingdom to teach God’s Word. Pretty cool that Sunday School came to your home during the reign of Jehoshaphat. It was a peaceful time for a good while in Judah. God was blessing Jehoshaphat’s leadership.
But, remember, I said Jehoshaphat wasn’t perfect. In chapter 18 of II Chronicles we learn that he joined up with King Ahab who was the despicable guy that was married to the evil Queen Jezebel. Ahab was an idolater. He hated the true God of Israel. Jehoshaphat married Ahab’s daughter and through that relationship he was led astray. Sometime later, Jehoshaphat repented of forming an alliance with Ahab, and of putting his trust in earthly kingdoms and earthly power, and he went back to seeking the Lord. Good thing he did, because he and the southern Kingdom needed the Lord as chapter 20 opens. Let’s start reading in verse 1.
2 Chronicles 20:1-30 1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat.
3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire 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.
Notice here that Jehoshaphat didn’t look to an earthly king to help bail him out or to join forces with in order to be stronger against the coming enemy, but he went straight to the One, True God with fasting and prayer—both of which are forms of worship. As he began to pray he started to talk to God about Who He was, what He had done, and how his hope was in God to deal with this situation. Look at verse 5.
5 Then 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: “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.’
This was Jehoshaphat’s plan, crying out to God was the plan. Worshipping God was the plan. How many of you know this morning that, that is the only plan for a child of God who is being attacked? Skip to verse 12 for what might be considered the key verse of the whole passage:
12 Verse 12:b: 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.”
The first thing I would draw your attention to this morning is that Worship moves me from Me-centered to God-centered.
When we are feeling pressure, when the enemy is coming against us, when we are alarmed as verse 3 says that Jehoshaphat was, we often ask, “What am I going to do?” We often look for an earthly solution, run to earthly alliances or come up with earthly strategies. We look for places to run. We look for places to hide. Not Jehoshaphat. He moved away from himself, his army, his authority, his experience, his resources, and he put his eyes on God. He moved away from self-reliance and became God-reliant in the worship atmosphere of fasting and prayer.
I absolutely love verse 13. 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
So, after they got God-centered, they stood there. They stayed there. They waited there. They listened there. They expected a response from God about their situation. They weren’t leaving without help, without hope, without an understanding of what God wanted them to do.
Do we come to worship with the same anticipation and same expectation? Do we come into His presence because we want to move away from earthly solutions to God-centered spiritual ones? Do we come with ears ready to hear what God would speak? That is the goal of worship. Worship creates space for us to receive marching orders. It creates room in our spirits for us to experience a shift from earthly emotions of panic and fear to take us to a place of forward faith.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel….Skip to verse 15: 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, 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.'”
Can you imagine what the faces of the people must have looked like? There they all were, standing there, the men, the women, and the children, waiting for God to speak. They were prepared for the worst. They were bracing themselves for what was next, and they hear from someone who had obviously been anointed by God to speak on His behalf say, “This isn’t even your war. This isn’t even your battle. You will march and you will stand, but you don’t have to fight. God will fight for you. Can you march and can you stand, people of Judah?” Marching and standing? That’s it? God will do the hard part? Had they not been God-centered, they would have stressed out, stroked out and strolled out of the fight. But God assured them He would ensure them victory. That is what happens when you worship the Lord and give Him an opportunity to speak to your situation.
Worship amplifies God’s voice.
If you are a believer and if you know the Word, you know God can help you. You know God has an inexhaustible arsenal and ultimate power and authority, but when you hear that a great force is coming against you, that people are ganging up on you, that trouble is headed toward you, God’s voice can easily be drowned out by the approaching army. That is when you need to start to worship God because as you do, His voice becomes louder than the voice of your enemy. And when that happens, you can hear God speak the kind of words that turn panic into peace. Look at what happened next. Their worship went to another level!
18 Jehoshaphat bowed 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 very loud voice.
Do you see how “all-in” everyone was? All the people of Judah got on their faces. They didn’t worry what their neighbor would think about them humbling themselves before the Lord. Then some of the Levites stood up and praised God in a loud voice. They weren’t concerned about the quality of their singing. They just went for it. What was happening was that they were already celebrating the victory before they had even gone out to war. Isn’t that cool? It leads me to the next point in this message:
Worship assists my faith and obedience.
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa.
Listen, after encountering God in worship, they knew if He was sending them, they could go. If He was sending them into battle, He would ensure their victory. They went with God’s plan. They didn’t question how it would all work if they were just marching and standing (of course, there was more to their participation, but God led them a step at a time rather than giving them every detail up front. He is tricky that way, right? ?). That is why this life with Him is a life of faith. We can trust Him to reveal the details when it is time. If you are lacking faith and obedience, increase your focus on worship. Don’t come to watch. Come to worship. Open your mouth and praise the Lord every day! It will help you gain courage to live the life of faith.
Continue reading in verse 20:b with me.
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.”
Can you imagine what the invading army thought as the singers advanced toward them? I can just picture some guy named Guido looking over at his buddy saying, “Hey, they are sending the choir to sing us down!” I’ve heard some choirs I would want to run away from, but seriously . . . Did they really think the choir at the head of the army was going to be a successful military tactic?
It wasn’t the fact that there was a choir at the front lines that was going to make any difference. It was the fact that the choir was lifting up the One, True Living God. It was that the praise of God’s people was promoting the victory God would give them. It was the only way to issue notice to the enemy that the Lord was fighting for them and they would win. Praise went first into battle! Oh, glory to God! God was being lifted up as they went out to fight the enemy!
Worship anchors me in victory!
Does anyone else know what I am talking about this morning? Listen, God could hold your enemies back. He could keep them from advancing toward you. But He wants us to know something greater, something more powerful, something more personal. He will not only go into battle for us, but He will go into battle with us! Oh, somebody needs to hear this morning. God wants to show you another level of protection and help as you are faithful to worship Him. It’s one thing for God to keep trouble away from us, but it is entirely different for Him to keep us in trouble! He can and will do it! A whole new relationship with God forms when we are kept in trouble, preserved in trial, and refined in times of testing. Only God can make the battle a blessing! Only God can take us deeper in relationship with Him by helping us confront our enemy! Is anyone getting helped this morning?
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.
Somebody needs to ambush the enemy with praise today! You are not going down! You are headed up into victory! You are not going to be taken out. You are going to be taken into the protective arms of God! Victory is yours! Let your worship anchor you in victory this morning.
23 The men of Ammon and Moab 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.
I would call that a success, how about you? Well, my last point for this morning is this:
Worship enables me to access God’s blessing.
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.
26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day.
The Valley of Beracah means, “The Valley of Blessings.”
They didn’t just get a little blessing. They got a blessing that took three days to collect. Wouldn’t that be a fun three-day experience? How many of you would be willing to take three days in a row to collect some blessings from God? And when they finished picking up and carrying all of the blessings (how many of you know sometimes the blessing of God involves a little work, amen?) they spent the fourth day in a worship service praising God. Praise and worship is the thread throughout this whole story of victory and blessing. They worshipped from start to finish.
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 lutes and trumpets.
They returned joyfully! They weren’t tired from the battle. They weren’t drained from carrying God’s blessings for three days. They were stronger. They were pumped. They were rejuvenated. They were rejoicing! God had taken something that seemed bad, that seemed like a burden, and turned it into a blessing.
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. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
I could probably have added that worship authenticates our reputation as God’s people as others look on and see how as we worship God fights for us. Look at the added blessing of peace in verse 30. They had rest on EVERY side.
The enemy sought to break them, but God chose to make them into warriors through worship.
If everything I have said about worship is true, and it is, what does it say about our reality when we forgo worship, when we forget to worship, or worse yet, when we fake worship?
If we are going to win the spiritual battles we face, and every battle is a spiritual battle, we need to learn to war God’s way. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
If we are going to live a victorious and blessed life, we are going to have to become God-centered. We are going to need to hear God’s voice. We will need to move out in faith and march or stand or do whatever God instructs us to do. It all happens as we learn to worship the Lord first and foremost. If you want the victory this morning, if you want the blessings, you need to grow as a worshipper who knows how to war God’s way.