An intriguing story is told in 2 Chronicles 20 in which enemies formed an alliance to fight against Jehoshaphat, King of Judah.
When Jehoshaphat received a report from his intelligence network about the pending attack from the enemies’ forces, he was shaken to the core. The imminent threat and impending danger drove him to two strategic action steps – to seek the heart of God and to follow His ways.
The acts of Jehoshaphat correspond perfectly with the theme of this issue of the Polished Shaft – Seeking God’s Heart and Following His Ways. The story reveals how Jehoshaphat’s attitude and action enabled him to overcome this crisis in a supernatural way. Let me revisit the passage in 2 Chronicles 20:1-25 and draw lessons for our encouragement.
1) SEEKING GOD’S HEART
When the armies of Moab, Ammon and Edom combined forces to come against Judah, King Jehoshaphat was confronted with a national threat. It was a national emergency with code RED as its highest alert!
If you were in Jehoshaphat’s shoes, how would you have reacted?
My natural reaction would probably be to press the action button immediately. Get my act together. No time to waste. Cancel all key military personnel’s leave. Call an emergency cabinet meeting. Activate the Open Mobilisation for immediate reservists’ recall. Do a press conference. Televise the latest Breakout News about the nation going to war. After having done all the necessaries, then, ask the nation to seek the heart of God and pray.
There is no doubt, King Jehoshaphat was alarmed and shaken (verse 3). But he did just the opposite. Instead of planning a counter attack, he turned his energy to seeking God. Instead of positioning his armies, he postured himself before God. He declared a national fast and called a nation-wide prayer meeting. He turned his attention to God and said, “…our eyes are on Thee!” (v.12b)
a) Seek God Himself, not just the answer to your problem.
When Jehoshaphat declared a national fast and prayer, notice what the people of Judah did. They came NOT ONLY to seek help from the Lord, but they came to seek the Lord HIMSELF (verse 4).
It is significant to note that the first four verses (verses 6-9) in Jehoshaphat’s prayer are focused on GOD. This is followed by the next three verses (verses 10-12) where he focused on the crisis or the problem.
In a crisis situation, we often pray to solve the problem first. “God, get me out of this terrible situation!” We do this without even seeking God’s divine purpose for the crisis. In fact, we often forget that trials and challenges, crises and problems may be possible means of grace for our spiritual growth. They should drive us to seek God exclusively, earnestly and expectantly.
Very often, we behave like the three-year-old boy named Tom. He was instructed by his parents NOT to ask his visiting Grandpa for his present. Whenever Grandpa comes to visit, Tom jumps up and down excitedly, waiting in anticipation for the present that Grandpa always brings. Today, the present seemed a long time coming because Grandpa was busy talking to his parents. At last, not able to contain himself any longer, he interrupted by saying, “Grandpa, I’m NOT supposed to ask you something!” Then he stopped short.
Grandpa, amused by the little boy’s statement, curiously asked, “What are you NOT supposed to ask?”
Tom was so delighted Grandpa had asked that he quickly blurted out, “I’m NOT supposed to ask you for MY PRESENT!”
Sometimes, when we seek God, all we are interested in is to ask for our present – the answer to our problem and His blessings. We do this instead of seeking HIM first.
b) Seek God Himself to get a revelation of who He is.
As Jehoshaphat prayed, the revelation of who God is and all that He had done were revealed. In the process of seeking God, the king realized the greatness of God through the national crisis. He saw the greatness of God in His attributes, action, awareness and ability to deliver.
Jehoshaphat had a renewed perspective of God’s attributes (verse 6). The God of heaven who rules over all the kingdoms of the nations has power and might in His hand. No one can stand against Him. He recalled what God had done – His actions (verse 7). It was God who drove out the inhabitants of the land and kept His covenant with the descendants of Abraham.
He was also reminded of God’s acute awareness of history (verse 11) and how God is in control of events. The Moabites and Edomites had returned evil for good when the Israelites did not invade their territories as instructed by the Lord (Deut 2:8-9; 2:19).
And finally, Jehoshaphat was prompted to depend on God’s ability to act and deliver the people out of Judah’s crisis situation (verse 12-13).
Option or Conviction?
In the face of crisis, calamity or the challenges of life, is seeking God an option or a conviction? Are we willing to humble ourselves before God with the deep conviction of faithfully depending on God alone, and say as King Jehoshaphat said, “My eyes are on Thee, Lord!”
When we seek God, what kind of prayer are we praying? Is it a God-centric prayer, a problem-focused prayer or a self-centred prayer?
A God-centric prayer often seeks the fulfilment of His purposes and will reveal who and what God would have us do.
THE MORE WE SEEK GOD HIMSELF, THE MORE WE WILL KNOW OF THE REVEALED GREATNESS OF GOD.
2) FOLLOWING HIS WAYS
To seek the heart of God is one thing, but to follow His ways is quite another matter. However, a genuine seeker of God’s heart would only desire to take delight in His ways. Notably, Jehoshaphat in seeking God’s heart, desired to follow His ways.
a) Following God’s ways in accordance with His Word.
God answered the prayers of King Jehoshaphat and the nation through the prophetic word given to Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah (verse 14-15). The Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel in the midst of the assembly.
In 2 Chronicles 20:15-16, Jahaziel said, “Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you. ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them.’
Here, we must commend King Jehoshaphat for his acts of obedience and humility. The king could have rejected the oracle brought by the prophet Jahaziel. After all, it was the king who initiated to seek God. Why should the LORD not speak to the king directly? Even so, King Jehoshaphat was willing to accept the oracle from the Lord’s anointed prophet and to obey it.
Following God’s ways require both humility and a willingness to obey. We need to know and appreciate the fact that God can use any of His servants whom He appoints, to deliver His oracle or message. Our part is to obey in accordance to His word.
b) In following God’s ways, victory is assured.
Firstly, it was a command to trust God to act on their behalf.
“You need not fight in this battle yourselves. Stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed. Tomorrow go out and face them, for the Lord is with you. (v.17)
In war, there are many things that need to be done in preparation for battle. There are numerous plans for war strategy, the mobilisation of troops, the logistics involved and media control that military strategists often say are necessary to win a battle. But here, there was nothing that King Jehoshaphat could do except to trust in God.
God has spoken. The battle belongs to the Lord. Victory is assured! “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude for the battle is not yours but God’s (v.15). Jehoshaphat just had to learn not to be afraid or dismayed. He had only to trust and rely on God!
Secondly, the battle order was to send forth the singers and musicians, instead of elitist commandos and jet fighter pilots to the enemies’ front line! It is one thing to profess faith among a highly excited assembly, but quite another to actually march into the enemies’ territory with a team of singers and musicians as instructed. What an unusual battle formation! But it was God’s way of engaging the enemies by penetrating into their territory and securing battle supremacy in an atmosphere of praise and worship.
As the singers, musicians and armies marched in obedience to the prophetic words given, victory is assured. Some may say it was not praise that won the battle, but faith that gave the victory. Rightly so, Judah’s praise was evidence of their faith to obey God.
HIS WAY IS WAY ABOVE OUR WAYS. WHEN WE FOLLOW HIS WAY, IT IS THE WAY OF VICTORY.
When we are confronted with crises in our lives, are we trusting God for His deliverance? Are we prepared to march in active obedience when the oracle of God is given? Are we ready to follow His way knowing that He is our great God?
Corrie Ten Boom who survived the Nazi concentration camp, used to have people coming up to her to say, “Corrie, what great faith you have!”
She would smile and reply, “No, it’s what a great God we have.”
When we do seek His heart, we will be confronted by a revelation of His greatness. When we follow His ways, it is a sure way to overcome a crisis with a victory.
Mrs Ong Guek Ju
Principal & Dean of School of Ministry