26 And on the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berachah, for there they blessed the Lord; therefore the name of that place was called The Valley of Berachah until this day. 27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front of them, to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28 So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29 And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around. (2 Chronicles 20, NKJV)
Sunday, October 18, 2015
The king receives the news: “Your enemies are coming. There’s a huge army amassed and it’s on its way.”
He knew they didn’t have the military strength to defend their nation. Nor did he have time to summon their allies.
So what did he do? He hit his knees—then called for the entire nation to fast and pray with him.
“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? 7 Are You not our God ... 10 And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir ...12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
The whole nation gathered there, before the Lord at His temple, to show their desperation for God’s intervention.
The word they received was surprising. Don’t be afraid! This battle isn’t yours to fight. Go down to meet the invaders tomorrow—here’s where they’re sure to cross. You’ll find them at a particular place, but when you get there, just stand and watch God work.
Well, huh. Would that be the advice you’d expect God to give? I’m sure the king expected something more like, “Gather your best warriors and ...” Or did he think of the long-ago story of Gideon, who defeated an army with the noise and light from shofars and torches, and hope deep in his heart for a similar intervention?
Whatever it was, the king took it a step further—and not only did he order the army to march down to the appointed location, but he set the best of their musicians and singers to the front, and instructed them to “sing to the Lord,” while others were to praise “the beauty of holiness.”
Early the next morning they went.
And then what happened?
22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.
Could it be that worship was what triggered God’s power in this situation? Or at least that God wanted to make a point about the importance of praising Him?
In our own lives, events can blindside us and leave us feeling completely helpless. It seems a no-brainer that our reaction should be to go to God ... but turning our desperation into praise can feel completely alien. Yet almost without fail, every Psalm that begins with crying out to God ends with an expression of trust and worship.
We talk of God being worthy of praise, but it’s true—no one else is more worthy than He. Only He is God ... only He is holy and good, only He is all knowing and all powerful and all loving. Perhaps it’s more that focusing on who He is frees our hearts and minds from the grip of whatever struggle we’re engaged in, than enabling God to work. Whatever, praise is a powerful tool in those situations where we feel most trapped.
God may not deliver us the way He did Jehoshaphat, that king of old—or Gideon—but we never know. He just might.