In 2 Chronicles 20, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites are preparing to come against king Jehoshaphat and the rest of Judah for battle. In the chapter preceding this, we see that Jehoshaphat implemented some great religious and judicial reforms with the intent of bringing the people back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. So, how is he repaid for these efforts? With the physical and political threat of war. But, based on the how the rest of chapter 20 plays out, perhaps the threat of war has nothing to do with any sort of punishment or correction, but perhaps it is simply an opportunity for the people, fresh in their recommitment to the Lord, to exercise and demonstrate their faith in Him and for God to once again prove His faithfulness.
As I read through this chapter, I am most encouraged by both the attitude of prayer taken on by Jehoshaphat, and the response to the prayer (as delivered by His Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jahaziel) offered by God. There is a cause and effect relationship going on here. Don’t misunderstand me. God’s will be done regardless of what the people of Judah pray. He is a sovereign God and He does as He pleases for His glory alone. So, even if the people did not humble themselves and cry out to God in prayer, the result could have been the same. But they would have missed out on the fruit of their prayers – the reassurance and comfort that they were able to take in God’s reply to their prayer. They would not have been able to have their faith bolstered by the word of the living God. They would not have been able to experience a peace that transcends all understanding. Even though the result may have been the same, the process would have been different.
And although I marvel and rejoice more at God’s response than I do to His people’s prayer, there is something that I appreciate about how Jehoshaphat prayed. Jehoshaphat realized what my friend recently discovered as he studied the book of Leviticus and that is, your offering to God is never too salty. As Jehoshaphat prays to God, he seasons his prayer-offering by reminding God of all the past promises He has made – like when He drove out all the inhabitants of the land before His people Israel and gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham. He also acknowledges God’s sovereignty and how He is powerful and mighty such that no one can stand against Him. He also reminds God of how He is faithful to hear His people’s prayers and save them from their affliction. And then he acknowledges their present situation and asks for God to intervene. But the best part is saved for last when Jehoshaphat prays,
“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
(2 Chronicles 20:12 ESV)
I love that. But at the same time, I’m convicted of how many times I only pray the first part of that sentence. More often than I would like to admit, it’s “I don’t know what to do but I’ll figure it out” or “I’ll just try this”. Jehoshaphat’s posture seems to be of faithful expectation as he keeps his eyes fixed on the only One who does know what to do and the only One that can save him from his present circumstances.
As much as I loved what was prayed by Jehoshaphat, I appreciate God’s answer even more. First, He reminds His people that,
Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
(2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV)
You see, God wants to make sure that everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities. This is God’s battle to win, not theirs. Of course, if the people of Judah are anything like me, their battle will be an internal one. The battle to believe and trust in God when everything within is crying out to plan, do, and conquer. God essentially tells His people, “Don’t worry. I got this!”. But once God’s role and responsibility is clear, it’s now time for God to make the people aware of their role and responsibility in all of this.
You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
(2 Chronicles 20:17 ESV)
Really, all that’s being asked of the people are three things. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD. Stand firm in your understanding that the battle is not yours, but God’s. Hold your position of faith knowing and trusting that God is faithful to fulfill His promises. See the salvation of the LORD on your behalf and understand that He has done for you what you could not do for yourself. Don’t plan, do, and conquer. Instead, rest, trust, and rejoice for the Lord your God is mighty to save. Amen to that.